OCEAN CITY – The Maryland Office of Tourism Development sat down with Ocean City tourism representatives this week to present an update of the state’s tourism current process and plans moving into the future.

Maryland Office of Tourism Development (OTD) Director Margot Amelia began by explaining OTD serves as the state’s official travel marketing agency, promoting Maryland’s attractions, accommodations and services to increase visitor spending in the state. It additionally provides residents and out-of-state visitors with information and services to ensure a positive trip experience and positions Maryland as a competitive destination.

The Maryland Tourism Development Board (MTDB) has oversight of the Maryland Tourism Development Fund, which is a separate fund dedicated to tourism marketing that includes $2.5 million in mandated grants to 25 destination marketing organizations. The board can generate revenue and accept federal monies, and review legislation, fees and taxes to assess the impact on the economic viability of the tourism industry.

The MTDB participated in five-year strategic planning process, reviews and approves the Office of Tourism’s marketing and development plan and cooperate with other organizations that aids in the development and promotion of tourism.

The five-year strategic plan, 2010-2015, process began in September of 2008 with the final document being approved in November 2009. It includes dramatic changes in economic climate and tourism budgets that have impacted some strategies and tactics, but the plan has been an excellent road map for success during challenging times. The board revisits the plan annually with the same facilitator.

The strategic plan’s vision by 2015 is Maryland’s tourism industry, and the efforts of the OTD, shall be recognized as a vital economic engine for the State of Maryland, generating revenues, sustaining jobs, improving the State’s image and leveraging investments in Maryland’s tourism assets. OTD will pursue its mission- increasing tourism expenditures- with a focus on accountability and results.

In 2011, Maryland welcomed 34.4 million visitors, which is a 6.8 percent increase from 32.3 million visits in 2010. Visitation to Maryland has increased 26.3 percent since 2007 with an additional 7.2 million visitors outperforming the 8.1 percent growth of the United States. Market share has increased 16.9 percent since 2007 so far outperforming regional and national trends.

Leisure travel in Maryland is on the upswing while the state saw growth in all segments, business and leisure as well as both day trips and overnight stays. Leisure travel grew 8 percent in 2011, 30 percent since 2007. Overnight stays grew 8 percent in 2011, 27 percent since 2007.

In 2011, Maryland reached record breaking revenue of $14.3 billion economic impact, and visitor spending surpassed the State’s pre-recession high.

Maryland’s tourism supports 131,000 direct jobs with a payroll of $4 billion. Tourism is the 10th largest private sector employer in Maryland. One out of 17 jobs in Maryland is a tourism job.

The $14.3 billion in visitor spending generated $2 billion in State and local taxes. Without the revenue generated by visitors, Maryland households would have paid $920 more in taxes in 2011.

Maryland’s tourism business continues to grow significant revenue. In FY12, the Comptroller reported $377.5 million in sales tax revenues attributable to tourism for the Tourism Promotion Act, which is an increase of 5 percent from FY11, after adjusting for the increase on the sales of alcohol. An additional $18 million in tourism tax revenue was collected in FY12, qualifying the MTDB for an additional $3.573 million in FY14.

“Very critical, and one of the first things we did when I came on board was both quantitative and qualitative research,” Amelia said. “We did an image awareness study to determine what consumers thought of Maryland and its competitors, and to determine what motivates consumers…and we did qualitative research on focus groups to allow consumer insight and direction for our advertising, our publications and our web design.”

OTC refocused marketing efforts on key feeder markets and communicated with those markets year-round. The focus is on the top three markets of D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia, which make up 55 percent of Maryland travelers.

The MTDB commissioned an effectiveness study on 2011 advertising that reported only incremental business was generated by ads, not travel planned prior to viewing the advertising. Advertising generated $182 million in visitor spending from 211,000 trips that supported more than 1,800 new tourism jobs. Every $1 spent on OTD ads generated $220 in incremental visits spending, $31 in State and local taxes and $6 in State sales tax revenue.

“So while we were doing all that new research, all the branding work we still had to do all the core promotional work and outreach efforts,” Amelia said. “We are out there all the time doing travel trade sales, international marketing, public relations…it’s all about content development, and you need to continuously update your content on the web, social media and publications. Also, social and digital media and marketing, and we do a lot of product development.”

OTD has an alliance with Washington D.C. and Virginia, and while they compete aggressively against each other, they still work together, which has resulted in a successful Maryland investment in promotion to Western Europe and emerging markets of Brazil and China where every $1 put in is matched $8 in FY12.

“And we have returned to the consumer market in Canada through a lot of Discover America programs,” Amelia said. “Canada is a great market for Ocean City.”

OTDs future strategies for success recognize the State must go beyond the strategic regional promotional efforts, and it is necessary to target larger, and more distant metropolitan areas, such as New York City.

“We have done a great job with our strategic regional promotional efforts but in order to grow we really need to be talking to that big market up in New York…another area we will see significant efforts is in the international market,” Amelia said.