Ocean City gears up for a busy summer and asks visitors to be patient with worker shortages

Tuesday 25 May 2021
Lowell Melser, WBAL-TV

Ocean City is bracing for one of its busiest summers ever now that some COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, such as the the lifting of the order of masks on the promenade.

With the unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day weekend and the COVID-19 pandemic still upon us, many Marylanders may be looking for a great family vacation close to home.

But there is a catch when it comes to finding staff for small businesses and restaurants, which is why they urge anyone who visits to be patient.

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan has said he’s ready to kick off what could be the busiest summer the city has ever seen.

“It’s going to be a very, very busy summer,” Meehan said.

With more people getting vaccinated and craving family travel again, the demand for road trips like Ocean City is skyrocketing.

“We just want to invite everyone who didn’t come to Ocean City last year to renew their traditions and what they couldn’t do,” Meehan said.

But there is a major staffing issue that could cause disruption to visitors’ favorite restaurants, hotels, or entertainment facilities – so patience will be key.

“With vaccinations and things like that, there are a lot more people, a lot more tourists coming in, a lot more traffic already this year,” said Stephan Pastusak, vice president of Jolly Roger Amusement Parks.

Pastusak told 11 News he has enough staff to open but would like to have a cushion before the summer.

“If there is someone looking for a summer job, we are recruiting now. We are looking for all kinds of people. We have all the jobs here, from our fries stalls at Thrashers to the water park to go on carts. I have something for everyone to come and have fun or to find a job, ”said Pastusak.

The reason for the labor shortage is twofold. First, employees who are still unemployed earn similar wages instead of returning to work.

Second, because of COVID-19, there have been significant delays in the J-1 visa program, which allows international students to come to the United States to work and study. Normally, up to 6,000 students come to Ocean City each year. Last year there was none. This year, there could be less than 1,000.

“Things seemed to be back to normal for the general public, or at least moving in that direction. Unless something changes quickly, it will be a very long summer for all the hospitality people here because we are missing out. of staff, ”said Garvey Heiderman, owner of The Hobbit Restaurant.

Heiderman is currently facing staffing issues and has noticed a surge in business in recent months. While convinced that he can serve his customers, he worries about other small businesses.

“Yes, I think everyone has the potential to have a banner year, but that’s only as much business as they can provide to meet the demand,” Heiderman said.

And what about this demand for accommodation? Dave Robinson, vice chairman of the Boardwalk Hotel Group, which owns and operates three beachfront hotels, said he expected nearly 100% occupancy for Memorial Day weekend.

“We thought it would be a rebound, but I don’t think anyone thought it would be that big that fast,” said Robinson.

Now that hotels can operate at 100% capacity, there are more rooms for anxious travelers.

“I would suggest that people think about what they want to do and book early because (the rooms) go fast,” said Robinson.

Anyone planning to take a trip to Ocean City this summer and want to know what’s open and what’s closed regarding COVID-19 restrictions can go to OCOcean.com.

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