- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2001

OCEAN CITY, Md. (AP) — Rising prices in Ocean City may be leading tourists to look for alternatives.
"It's too expensive nowadays," said T.K. Kelly, 42, a mother of two from Baltimore who has visited the restort every summer for the past two decades. "It's just not a cheap vacation anymore, especially if you want to stay on the ocean."
Mrs. Kelly says this summer may mark her last visit to Ocean City. Statistics suggest others have made the same decision.
According to demoflush numbers — population estimates based on the town's wastewater volume — about 1.2 million tourists visited the resort last month, down from 1.5 million in July 2000.
Numbers also are showing a drop in August, with 930,800 visitors so far compared with 956,937 during the same period last year.
Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, blames the slowing national economy for the drop in tourists, but concedes that prices have gone up.
Ocean City traditionally was considered an affordable vacation but tourists today are finding otherwise.
The average price for an oceanside hotel room is now $250 per night on weekends. At the Marina Deck Restaurant, diners pay $24.99 for two jumbo lump crab cakes.
A frozen mixed drink at Fager's Island costs $7, while a domestic bottled beer costs more than $3.50. Even Boardwalk snacks can be pricey a bucket of Thrasher's french fries costs $7.50.
When they add it all up, some say they are finding more exotic locations are sometimes less expensive.
An all-inclusive vacation package at the Hyatt Regency on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia can cost as little as $250 per person each night, depending on the time of year. That includes airfare, hotel, meals, drinks, activities, entertainment and tips.
"Ocean City is great," Mrs. Kelly said. "It's close to home and I have a lot of good memories from my trips here. But why come here if you can go to some exotic island and swim in a warm, blue ocean for less money?"

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