By MADDY VITALE
There may be a chill in the air, but the Ocean City Tourism Development Commission is reminding visitors that spring is around the corner and now is the time to book that family vacation.
During the commission’s remote meeting this week, officials noted that the marketing campaign is getting into full swing with billboards, mailings and contest giveaways on social media platforms.
And while officials emphasized that there is a lot unknown about what 2021’s summer season will look like, they are hoping the COVID-19 vaccine will be more readily available, and life will return to normal, or at least closer to it than the summer of 2020.
Burt Wilkins, chairman of the tourism commission, said he is optimistic that the vaccine will become more available.
“Obviously, with the vaccine out there, we are hoping to have a great summer,” Wilkins said.
In the meantime, the commission is focusing on a multi-faceted marketing campaign highlighted by prominently located billboards and a strong emphasis on social media.
One of the main billboards is in the area of the Walt Whitman Bridge in Philadelphia, as it is every year.
Wilkins said that from February to early April the commission will utilize the billboard to showcase Ocean City and why families should flock to the shore town.
“It has been very effective,” Wilkins noted of the billboard through the years.
In addition, the tourism commission approved three mailings of about 15,000 postcards to entice people to book their vacation accommodations soon.
“We approved three postcard mailings and one of them is to go out in the next couple of weeks to encourage people to rent apartments,” Wilkins said. “It is geared toward people with children. We want to encourage folks to book their accommodations.”
Of the tourism commission’s overall budget of $620,000, $563,000 is dedicated to marketing and advertising.
In addition to billboards and postcards there are e-marketing materials, television spots, vacation guides, print media and brochures.
Wilkins said the television campaign will start around the first week of March and go to Easter.
“We are hoping this summer will be more traditional, so a lot of our timing will be similar to prior years,” Wilkins said.
The commission, he added, is emulating what it has done in the years prior to the pandemic, including its free weeklong vacation giveaway promotion.
“Our free week giveaway is popular. We do it every year,” he said.
He added, “We have a pretty multi-faceted promotional campaign.”
The target audience is also the same as it has been for years. The main one is the Philadelphia market, followed by the South Jersey market, Pittsburgh, North Jersey, New York and Maryland.
“By far, Philadelphia is still our major market,” Wilkins stressed.
Over the past year, he said, there was a greater number of visitors to the tourism website, more than 597,000.
“The online presence is huge. It was a non-traditional year, though. Seventy-four percent of the visitors were new users. That is pretty amazing,” Wilkins pointed out. “Typically we have 30- to 40-year-olds that click on our site the most, but this last year it was 55 and older.”
City Councilwoman Karen Bergman, a representative on the tourism commission, gave a report about the commission’s marketing campaign to City Council on Thursday night.
City Council reappointed Wilkins, Patty Talese, Bill McGinnity and Cricket Frank to the tourism commission.
“I enjoy working with them and I think Ocean City is represented well by them,” Bergman said of the tourism commission members. “We are looking forward to a successful 2021.”
Bergman echoed Wilkins’ sentiments about how amazing it is that there are so many visitors to the tourism website.
She said some tried and true marketing campaign strategies continue to prove successful in attracting people to the resort for vacations.
“Contests for giveaways are really one of the most successful things we do to drive people to our website,” she noted.
She added that other social media platforms from YouTube to Instagram to Snapchat are also being incorporated into the marketing campaign to get the message out that Ocean City is a premier vacation destination.
For more information visit https://oceancityvacation.com/