Would free gas lure you to Ocean City?

  • Ryan Jeffers, Bethesda, carries his boogie board as he emerges from the Atlantic Ocean.
Ryan Jeffers, Bethesda, carries his boogie board as he emerges… (Kim Hairston/The Baltimore…)
May 18, 2011|By Liz F. Kay

An Ocean City councilman has proposed redirecting part of its tourism promotion budget toward subsidizing the fuel that brings most vacationers there.

"If we don't do it, someone else will do it," said Brent Ashley, who said he brought up the idea at the end of the council's meeting this week.

Ashley said he made the suggestion to use $1 million --- part of the room and occupancy taxes collected by the town --- to offer free gas as part of discussions of the budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. That money is for "destination marketing" --- television and other advertising.

Officials have been touting all the free fun activities available in Ocean City, including free movies on the beach, concerts and more, but Ashley said he and others in the town think they can do more.

Ashley said the logistics of how the promotion would work have not been worked out. But he and other supporters of this effort think it will make a difference to tourists, even if gas prices drop as expected.

"We want to show we care about our guests down here," he said. "We understand that things are tight and dollars are short."

Donna Abbott, communications manager for the Ocean City Conventions and Visitors Bureau, said earlier this week that most tourists are about "half a tank of gas away" and numbers did not decline even when gas prices increased.

"We found in past years when gas prices have been escalating it did not impact summer season," she said.

What do you think? Would free gas --- something like a free gallon per night in town --- entice you to stay there?

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