Ocean City crowd estimates are like kites -- they always tend to go higher. Listen to Ocean City Mayor Roland Powell: "Judging by the traffic and the number of the people on the boardwalk and the beaches and the hotels and motels, I think it's been the best Memorial Day we've ever had."
Ocean City mayors are known for their optimism and exaggeration. But there is no denying the success of Maryland's major ocean resort last weekend when 250,000 people went there, spending tens of millions of dollars. For Ocean City, that kind of a crowd and that kind of money spell a splendid season start. If the weather holds, maybe this will turn out to be the best season ever.
As Ocean City keeps drawing increasing numbers of vacationers from the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas, in addition to the Baltimore and Washington markets, its capacity is being tested. A warning sign is the bumper-to-bumper traffic on Coastal Highway. If anything, congestion is likely to grow worse as new developments increase in West Ocean City and other nearby communities.
Maryland's tourism officials have been so successful in marketing Ocean City that we think they should now promote other parts of the state. That way more of Maryland could share the economic benefits tourism dollars. Statewide, it is estimated that $4.5 billion was spent last year on overnight lodging, transportation, food and incidental retail expenditures.
There is no better time for aggressively promoting Maryland than a recession, when people want quality for their dollars. Tourism specialists of the Western Maryland counties have the right idea. Instead of "Reach the Beach," which used to be the slogan promoting Ocean City, they are considering "Reach the Peaks" or "Head for the Hills."
Robert J. O'Connor, director of the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, even thinks Western Maryland might call itself "Heaven." Neighboring West Virginia, after all, touts itself as "Almost Heaven."