Surveying visitors’ and residents’ perception of Ocean City is one thing, but it’s quite another to effect change where the opinions gathered suggest the resort is falling short in terms of its attractiveness to potential customers.
That’s the difficulty Director of Tourism Tom Perlozzo faces, as he and consultants gather data that can be used to guide new marketing materials designed to draw an affluent crowd.
Take resort nightlife — many survey respondents say it’s not what it should be, although a good follow-up question to that observation would be “as compared to what?”
Unlike some metro areas where all the joints are jumping year-round, Ocean City is constrained by a relatively short season of profitability. Consequently, going all out to emulate big city nightlife in the summer makes no sense when it’s a pushup just to keep the lights on in the winter.
And then there’s the question of value and whether patrons believe they’re getting their money’s worth. Some do and some don’t, depending on their expectations, but not much can be done about that either way, as business operators and proprietors operate however they see fit.
The good ones will do whatever they can — and can afford — in terms of service, product and price to keep customers happy. And then there are the operations whose fragile margins won’t permit them to be too generous, and finally there are the one-and-done operators who just take the money. There’s no way to control that because it’s a matter of individual business philosophy and circumstances.
To be sure, Ocean City could use some new and improved packaging, and in all likelihood Perlozzo and his department will get that done.
It’s also likely that the tourism department will produce some exciting new promotions and attractions designed to draw the crowd that the resort wants.
The bottom line, however, is that the quality of the product beneath the packaging and the perceptions that engenders will be determined by the hundreds of diverse components that make Ocean City what it is.