***Update: Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday afternoon that four new cases of coronavirus had been confirmed, bringing the total to 12. One patient's case will be handled by the state of Montana, as she is a part-time resident there.
(March 13, 2020) Despite worries about the appearance of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, in Maryland, the Ocean City Spring Trade Expo at the Ocean City convention center on Sunday and Monday experienced another successful edition.
“The event went amazingly,” said Susan Jones, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association executive director. “Vendors were happy to be there and the attendees were certainly shopping. Everyone seemed quite happy that we still had the show.”
Altogether, 343 companies occupied 410 booth spaces, with an estimated 4,100 buyers in attendance.
While still a great event, Jones said both vendor and buyer attendance had been negatively affected after six people in Maryland had been confirmed positive with Covid-19.
As of Wednesday, March 11, there have been nine confirmed cases.
“Deluxe Payroll said that their company cancelled all business travel and [the representative from ] Mill Distributors out of Ohio was too nervous to be in crowds, as he had a compromised immune system.”
Another national company, Showtime Networks, did not make an appearance, but Jones said she had not been able to confirm whether it was because of the virus.
Fears of the virus also affected attendance, as Jones originally had estimated 5,000 people to attend.
Nonetheless, she said she was immensely proud of the 46th rendition of the Spring Trade Expo, which has become a major resource for the mid-Atlantic’s hospitality industry.
“This was my 25th year leading the expo,” Jones said. “Through the years, we have focused on doing all that we can to ensure the exhibitors are taken care of — they are the ones who spend the money to purchase booths.”
To help the event improve, Jones said she altered the attendee registration after receiving complaints previously from vendors about “freeloaders” who came to the show in search of free items.
Exhibitors told Jones the number of these freeloaders visibly dropped this year.
“I also am proud of the fact that we have 50 plus volunteers who come out every year to help us with registration, check-in and guarding the doors,” Jones said. “I even have a couple [of volunteers] who have done it since the beginning — one of them is Pat Harman and Suzanne Jackson from the Commander Hotel.”
Preparations for next year’s expo, which is slated for March 7-8, will begin in June, Jones said. She added that the association will discuss adjusting the schedule of the educational sessions so they won’t pull attendees away from the floor exhibits.