OCEAN CITY – Mayor Rick Meehan is conducting an informal poll of various hotels around town to verify whether it is room rates or occupancy rates that have increased Ocean City’s room tax.
here seems to be a difference of opinion amongst the Mayor and City Council whether the number of visitors are up or down in town. Councilwoman Mary Knight said this week hearing fellow council members say that the numbers are down “gets so old.”
“Our room tax is up and food and alcohol tax is up,” she said. “We hear from key business owners down here that we’re on an average … there’s more occupancy. Things are good in Ocean City.”
Meehan said that Ocean City’s room tax has increased 5 percent plus since last year. In comparison, other areas have experienced a reduction in room tax.
“We are above the norm and we have maintained our market share,” the mayor said. “We have actually increased it in difficult times and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Meehan has made some calls to check with some of the larger hotel operators in town as well as operators with multiple hotels and concluded that it was not hotel rates that have increased the room tax but it is the occupancy rate.
“It was referenced by some of those who seem to know an awful lot about tourism here on the council that the room tax figures were up last year as a result of rate increases rather than increased occupancy,” Meehan said.
He also checked in with one of the website operators that work with the town and the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association (OCHMRA) in booking hotel rooms. The mayor was told that that the average rate a room did increase, if at all, was by nine cents, which is not a significant number to cause room tax to raise 5 percent or more, the maintains.
“So you see an increase in room tax because of the increased number of visitors and increased occupancy,” he said. “It’s not a result of increased prices.”
Meehan added that there has been a website, www.ocfreeforall.com, developed by the Tourism Advisory Board and the OCHMRA to promote all the free events and promotions the town and individual businesses are offering in Ocean City.
“That was put together so that it is a one-stop spot where our visitors and potential vacationers can go and find out where all the deals and promotions are in Ocean City,” he said. “My message is nobody should be held hostage by gas prices. We shouldn’t allow gas prices too keep us from enjoying time with our family and friends vacationing.”