OCEAN CITY – All in all, a visitor survey released this week ranks Ocean City near the top of competing beach destinations, with only a few improvements to work on as the town moves into the future.
Tourism Director Deb Turk said a visitor survey research project is something that has been planned for some time now, and this past summer visitors were asked a series of online questions.
“You will find them [results] very revealing and interesting,” Turk said. “You will come to understand who are visitor is, and how well known Ocean City is as a vacation destination in the eyes of the general public, which is really a reflection on how well our advertising is or is not.”
The survey’s results were presented by Vice President of Equation Research Chris Burke.
He explained that the methodology behind the findings of the survey was taken from a population online this past July. There were 1,745 surveyors placed into a general market category. They had to be the primary or shared decision makers who live in Baltimore, Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York in Pennsylvania, New York, Philadelphia or the Washington D.C area. They also had to be planning at least one trip in the next 12 months that includes an overnight stay, open to taking a drivable summer beach vacation and visiting Ocean City.
The visitor survey produced five key findings. The first finding provided that the number of visitations to Ocean City ranked second to Atlantic City. The town was compared to other beach destinations up and down the coast.
According to Burke, a large majority of the general market has been to Ocean City at least once in the past and about half of the general market has been to Ocean City in the past three years.
“So that’s leading to a lot of familiarities to the destination and a good base of people who have at least come to see you guys once and hopefully you can get them back in the future,” he said.
The next key finding found the response and recognition of Ocean City’s current advertising to be strong. Among the general market, 61 percent recall seeing advertising from Ocean City in the past six months, which is higher than any competitive destinations.
The presentation pointed out that the Rodney campaign is well received. The majority of the target market perceives Rodney to be a likeable character, consider the ads to be attention‐grabbing and a good “fit” for Ocean City. Also, 50 percent agreed that the ads are motivating.
“That is a good score in my estimation … here you are actually impacting the decision making process of half the general market so from an equation‘s point of view at least that’s a very encouraging score,” Burke said.
The third key finding was the town’s website, ococean.com, plays a dual role. It is an integral part of the planning process and a destination advertisement. Burke said 43 percent of visitors use ococean.com during their trip planning process and nine out of 10 consider it useful as an information source.
“So whatever you guys are doing with ococean keep it up,” he said. “I’m sure there is always ways to improve but that is a good starting point.”
Another key finding was on average, travel parties spend more money at Ocean City than they do on a “typical” beach vacation.
Burke explained a typical beach vacation to include about a five-day stay and the average expenditure for $1,100, or $225 per day. Average Ocean City travel parties have a slightly shorter stay, at about four days, but spend $1,459, or about $384 per day.
The last key finding was that Ocean City’s Net Promoter Score (NPS) is 44, which could use improvement.
“In short Net Promoter Score is an industry wide standard, or at least a growing standard, for measuring likelihood to recommend,” Burke said. “It is not by any means a disaster just not quite at the top of the pack and knowing the importance of word to mouth it is something we would want to focus on moving forward.”
Burke added that Ocean City’s score of 44 among the general market is still on par with most of the competitive set. It still has a strong lead over primary competitors such as Virginia Beach and the New Jersey shore. The Carolina destinations score the highest, but they are geographically distant from Ocean City’s target designated market areas.
In addition, the survey also exemplified that Ocean City is highly rated for its free beach access and other attributes such as, a lot to do, outdoor activities and being worth multiple visits.
“Some of the things that fall lower to the bottom are romantic getaway for couples and travel packages among the general market and that could be because you’re not messaging against that or that’s not the type of visitor you’re attracting,” Burke said.
Councilwoman Margaret Pillas pointed out that it could be because Ocean City’s mission statement is “free family fun” that couples tend to look past Ocean City as a destination choice.
“It seems like we need to alter that statement or try to find what we’re doing to bring families here instead of couples,” she said.
The survey also pointed out aspects Ocean City could perform better in while in comparison to competition, such as friendly places, great beaches, good hotel options, beautiful scenery, and a good value for the money.
“I think it is also a balance of our business community,” Mayor Rick Meehan said as he commented on enhancing the aspect of good value for the money. “They need to take a look at that and realize that that is not the highest score that it should be and really concentrate on improving the results, and making sure we live up to the level of expectation of our visitor.”