Melanie Pursel

(July 31, 2020) A survey conducted by Worcester County tourism and the Small Businesses Development Center in Salisbury University is discovering what visitors prefer while traveling to Worcester County and Ocean City during the covid-19 pandemic.

Melanie Pursel, director of Worcester County Tourism, said John Hickman, director of the Small Business Center, had asked her to oversee a group of five Salisbury University students creating the survey. 

The survey’s goal was to get a sense of visitor’s comfort with traveling and tourist activities. The survey was available from about June 22 to July 22, according to Pursel. 

It asked participants questions such as whether they were Maryland residents, which county they were from, how comfortable they felt staying in a hotel, how comfortable they were with various hotel amenities, what their preferred method of travel was, if alternate travel and outdoor activities appealed to them and what safety methods they had seen other businesses taking. 

Most questions called for answers based on a five-point scale to express participants’ level of comfort in different scenarios. 

“Anytime you collect data, it gives you an opportunity to make informed decisions,” Pursel said. “We think this is going to be a good resource to at least start maybe making some overall decisions about how we’re going to advertise moving forward as a county and then how we can offer guidance to our businesses and our towns in terms of promoting ourselves to our potential visitors.” 

The students also researched the safety protocols other businesses and similar tourist destinations have implemented, such as Myrtle Beach, Deep Creek Lake, Virginia Beach and the Jersey Shore. 

“We’re going to come up with some guidelines or ideas that we can share with the businesses as well as the towns between Ocean City, Snow Hill, Pocomoke and Berlin of what visitors are looking for and to offer them some guidance and ideas,” Pursel said. 

Although the results of the survey have not been compiled yet, Pursel believed that most people feel comfortable driving. 

“I think it puts us in a really good position in that we are a drive-to destination to major markets such as Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and Harrisburg,” Pursel said. “I think it is an opportunity for somebody that would’ve typically gone on a vacation, maybe a cruise or flown somewhere, they might opt the next year to do more of a drive-to.” 

The survey collected about 250 responses, which Pursel said is a small sample size. 

“But I think it’s good for the businesses to know first-hand from the people that are planning to travel if they’re planning to travel, and what are the things that make them most comfortable with their travel experience and their experience with the business,” Pursel said. 

She has been meeting with the Salisbury University students once a week via Zoom and they will present a report based on the survey next Thursday. 

“They’ve had an opportunity to delve into this real-world impact and it was neat to help navigate that with them,” Pursel said. “They’ve had some good ideas so far, so I’m looking forward to what they have to share.”

Elizabeth covers Worcester County issues for Ocean City Today. In 2018, she graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa with a bachelor of arts. After graduation, Elizabeth spent a year with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Wilmington, Delaware.

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