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Ocean City enjoying wave of summer tourists

The Daily Times of Salisbury//Scott Muska//June 12, 2012

Ocean City enjoying wave of summer tourists

By The Daily Times of Salisbury

//Scott Muska

//June 12, 2012

OCEAN CITY — So far this tourist season, Ocean City has hosted a multitude of special events in town that have coincided with mostly sunny and warm weather.

The conditions have brought visitors in droves to the resort community, producing what Mayor Rick Meehan metaphorically calls “a perfect storm” — one he’s optimistic will continue into the summer months.

Business owners and town officials say they have witnessed a heavy and active visiting populace.

Sales at the Kite Loft’s Boardwalk and 130th Street locations have been up from previous years, according to owner Jay Knerr, who said every weekend since March has been “rock solid” for the specialty store.

He thinks the town’s weekly special events — a roster of which the town has, in recent years, concentrated on building and maintaining — are at least partially responsible for the early season success.

“Those are a great asset to town; between the laser and air shows, the car shows, it all works,” Knerr said. “It sets the town apart from all the rest.”

Last weekend, the town hosted an air show, car show and multiple athletic tournaments, and perfect beach weather endured through its entirety. Resort spokeswoman Donna Abbott said everywhere she went, she saw people in throngs.

“I think we’re off to a great start, and I think the crowds in town have reflected that,” Meehan said. “Our really good years tend to come when we have a great spring and good numbers in the early part of summer, so I think it’s going to be a fantastic season.”

Demoflush numbers estimated an average population of more than 267,500 in town on Saturday and Sunday, and were up 2.6 percent from the corresponding weekend in 2011, according to Jesse Houston, Ocean City’s director of planning and community development. Demoflush is a system that culls data from the number of times people flush toilets within town limits. Some are skeptical of the numbers, but it’s the best way the resort community has come up with thus far to get a rough number of people in town.

Stats for the first weekend of June were down 2.8 percent at about 200,600 resort visitors, while Memorial Day weekend’s average stayed almost identical to 2011 at about 281,900 people.

Three weekends into the peak tourism season, numbers are just about level with the previous year, something Houston has come to expect.

“Weekends are usually pretty steady, depending on the weather,” he said.

Meehan pointed out that room and food tax revenue have been up from previous years, indicating the people who are here are spending on food and lodging, among other things, that help maintain a town that is heavily reliant on tourism dollars.

Donna Abbott, town spokeswoman and tourism director, said the Demoflush stats are not always an exact science, and that she was more interested in what she’d seen in town during the weekend.

“This town, it was just buzzing this weekend, there was a lot of activity and the parking lots were all full,” Abbott said.

If warmer-than-normal temperatures continue through the season as expected, Abbott thinks they will add to the number of people who come to the shore, especially those who live close by and make a last-minute decision to head to the water for a day or a weekend.

Abbott has also heard advanced reservations are up this year, something that hasn’t been the case “in a long time.”

“That shows us people are traveling, they’re making their plans ahead of time and not so much last-minute, which has become a more recent trend,” Abbott said. “So it’s very encouraging to hear that.”



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