Tom Perlozzo

Tom Perlozzo

The Ocean City Tourism Commission was given a glimpse of Director of Tourism Tom Perlozzo’s plan to elevate the perception and reputation of the resort while painting it as a beautiful, fun, and welcoming destination for individuals, families, and groups.

To elevate the perception people have of Ocean City, Perlozzo and his team are researching the movement of visitors, when and where they book rooms or Airbnb’s, school schedules, sports marketing, and ways to use artificial intelligence to target different groups of people based on their geographic location.

“This gives us the foundation for moving forward,” he told the commission on Tuesday, adding that he wants to be able to promote Ocean City as a premiere year-round destination by developing experiences, events, and products.

Perlozzo also said it was important to embrace and promote the regional assets in the surrounding areas to drive visitation and to position Ocean City as a premiere destination for conventions, business meetings, sports tournaments, and special events.

The company hired by the city, Zartico, can track where people travel, where they come from, and how they group off the island. Perlozzo noted that information would have been helpful for the upcoming pop-up rally taking place next week.

The city will also have access to a Smith Travel Accommodations Report – or STR – to look at condominiums being rented out through companies like Airbnb.

The data will give property locations so Bill Neville, the city director of planning and community development, can verify the owners have the proper licensing.

Going after the owners for licensing could result in “greater tax dollars and more advertising revenue,” Perlozzo said.

The tourism department is also looking at school calendars for K-12 and colleges across the country to target advertising around holidays and three-day weekends.

Perlozzo also said Crossroads Consulting is being looked at to put together a sports marketing proposal that identifies locations for a sports complex.

In 2019, Ocean City paid the consulting firm $49,000 to conduct a feasibility study for a sports complex.

Councilman Matt James asked why Crossroads did not provide the one the city already paid for, questioning the need to pay for another study when the first one was never completed.

Councilman John Gehrig also said he would rather have the previous study revised.

“I can certainly go back to see if I can twist an arm or two,” Perlozzo said, though he was not sure it would be very effective.

In addition to the studies Perlozzo has planned, a perception study was launched on Aug. 24. Through that, 4,000 emailed surveys have been completed so far, Perlozzo reported. The surveys show “positive trends,” mostly from Pennsylvania.

The data from the surveys will be reviewed on Oct. 12, when the tourism commission meets next.

Mayor Rick Meehan questioned the effectiveness of conducting the surveys between August and October, especially with BikeFest and the pop-up rally taking place during that time. 

Andrea Vernot of Choptank Communications, who is managing the study, said the 4-5,000 studies that have been completed provides a “tremendous” amount of empirical data, so the two events of concern should not affect the results much.

A final piece Perlozzo’s pie includes working with a new advertising agency, and the city plans to publish a request for proposals (RFP) on Sept. 24.

A pre-bid meeting for the RFP will take place on Oct. 11, and on Oct. 25 they will be due. The next day, the City Council will open the bids at a work session, and finalists will be picked on Nov. 12. The finalists will be brought back to council on Nov. 29 to give presentations on what they have to offer and on Dec. 13, the tourism commission will recommend the one they want to work with.

The new agency is expected to begin working for Ocean City in January.

Perlozzo said the current advertising company the city uses, and has used for the past 20 years, does not plan to submit an RFP, raising concern from Councilman Tony DeLuca, who asked that an exit interview be conducted before they depart.

Perlozzo said he has done whatever he can to get the owner to participate.

“I feel like he has an edge,” Perlozzo said, explaining that the owner already knows the product of Ocean City. “If he doesn’t want the job, I don’t want him to have it.

“I am disappointed that he chose not to participate,” he added.

Ultimately, Perlozzo and his team are working to create a brand like competitive markets such as Virginia Beach, the Outer Banks, Rehoboth Beach, Wildwood, and Myrtle Beach.

Unlike those places, Perlozzo said, Ocean City has a larger and wider selection of accommodations and family activities, a greater concentration of fun and nightlife, a world class Boardwalk and beach, a close proximity to major metro areas, 200-plus Beach Patrol members, an in-town transportation system, and a waterfront convention center, which his plans to promote even more.

Unlike Ocean city, those competitive markets have strong in-house sales and marketing teams.

“As you know about us, that’s not the case,” Perlozzo said.

In the coming months, the director plans to present part two of his plan, which includes the addition of staffing, a reorganization of the department, and the direction Ocean City needs to go in the future.

This story appears in the print version of Ocean City Today on Sept. 17.

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