Ocean City Council Approves Tourism Staff Entertainment Policy | New
Staff members who wine and dine with clients to promote Ocean City as a tourist destination now have an official expense account and solid guidelines for doing their schmoozing.
During a business session on Tuesday, city council members unanimously approved an entertainment policy allowing some officials to pay for meals and other incidental tourism-related expenses. City Manager Terry McGean said the vote was essentially a formality because the city didn’t have a policy in place and the effort becomes more necessary as the focus shifts to promotions and conventions.
“As we have expanded our sales staff at the convention center, both for the convention center itself, for special events, for sports marketing, they have to invite potential customers to dinner…this happens often “McGean said. . “We didn’t have any real formal policy on how to handle this. What this policy does is it allows it.
The allowances apply to certain staff members – the Director of Tourism and Business Development, the Director of Convention Centers, the Director of Sales, the Director of Special Events, the Director of Sports Sales and the Director of Congress.
“It’s just these people who, by their specific function, are supposed to sell the city,” McGean said.
The policy establishes guidelines that adhere to IRS regulations for business expenses and requires necessary documentation for expenses. It refers to expenses specified as “reasonable”, such as food, tips, drinks and transport costs. Alcoholic beverages are permitted as long as their cost is included in the per person amount established in the policy, which is three times the federal daily rate. In Ocean City, the federal rate is $31 per person per day. The policy sets the rate at $93.
According to the staff report, the estimated cost for staff members to take advantage of the policy is $7,500 per year. The total is included in the 2023 tourism fiscal budget.
“It’s basically formalizing a way for our sales staff to really do their jobs,” McGean said of the policy ahead of the board’s unanimous vote.