(May 16, 2014) A trial run of the city’s new market survey at Springfest earlier this month has confirmed the survey’s concept – at least by proving what most already know about the event’s demographic.
City Tourism Director Donna Abbot told the Tourism Commission this week that a test of the city’s automated questionnaire – which visitors fill out on an iPad touch screen – had netted almost 100 participants at Springfest..
“We wanted to see if the program worked, and if people would respond,” said Council Secretary and Tourism Commission Chair Mary Knight.
Although it appeared that many participants did not respond to every question, the automated survey app worked well, Abbott said, and provided a helpful graph for each of the 11 questions asked as well as a map of respondents’ ZIP codes.
Responses skewed heavily toward an older demographic, who indicated that they visited frequently and were likely either locals or Baltimore-area residents who own a second home in the resort.
“This makes sense because we know we draw in a big local crowd,” said Greater Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Melanie Pursel.
ZIP code results indicated the greatest density of visitors originating either on the Eastern Shore, or in the Baltimore metro region. Of the 72 respondents who provided their age, 58 were over 45 years old, and 23 of these were over 60.
The question asking how many times visitors had been in Ocean City over the past five years provided the most dramatic result, with 48 of 73 respondents selecting 20 or more times. Further, 30 of 73 answered six or more days on the question about length-of-stay.
Single-family residences were the most common accommodations, with 23 responses versus 20 for condos and 13 for “vacation homes” – although Abbott said it should be made clearer on future surveys whether these properties are owned or rented, and whether they were full-time residences. Only 10 were staying in hotels.
But as routine visitors, Springfest participants were not splurging financially, with 54 of 72 spending under $100 per day beyond lodging, and 24 of those spending less than $50.
Predictably, the most popular answer on what would further enhance their experience was “more special events and festivals,” with 33 responses.
“This isn’t a real good sampling,” said Mayor Rick Meehan. “We need to have this in a lot of different areas around town. We need to get the people who are staying here, not just anyone passing by.”
A number of the firms that bid on the city’s strategic tourism consulting earlier this year had included plans for a market study. However, most of these firms were either out of the city’s price range or out of its larger scope of services.
Instead, the city decided last month to have Lyle Sumek, the consultant who worked on the city’s larger strategic plan last year, facilitate the process.
But before Sumek can begin holding the discussions, the city will need to have some idea of who is coming to town, and why. The city will thus be doing its own market survey at various locations through the summer months before public discussions on the tourism plan start in the fall.
“In our outline with Lyle, there will be a schedule of events and times [for the survey] that are intended to cover every part of the season,” said City Manager David Recor.