Tourism team takes first big step

April 04, 1997


Staff Writer

The transition team assigned to restructure Washington County's tourism operation has taken its first major step, but still hasn't decided how to restructure jobs and salaries, the team's president said Friday.

The group has organized a marketing committee into six subcommittees that will focus on improving revenue, promotions and tourism packaging, said Ron Stansbury, president of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau during its transition phase.

But the team must restructure positions and salaries for the bureau by Jan. 1, according to proposed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly that would extend the deadline from July, Stansbury said.


Since the transition team must restructure positions so salaries only account for 30 percent of the bureau's budget, some jobs might have to be eliminated or absorbed elsewhere, Stansbury said. Salaries account for about 50 percent of the bureau's roughly $500,000 budget.

One possibility is to see if the state tourism office would take over local tourism information centers, Stansbury said. Or some of the employees could be transferred to other Washington County government jobs.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop said the County Commissioners haven't decided yet whether to reabsorb some of the positions from the tourism bureau. He said they are waiting to see the final version of the proposed legislation, once it is approved.

Current bureau employees could apply for the newly restructured positions that would take effect in the new year, Stansbury said.

Because the bureau will face some tight financing after July 1, the transition team also wants the commissioners to share the cost of salaries from July to January, he said.

Starting July 1, the bureau will be obligated by state law to spend at least $55,000 on Civil War tourism as a half-percent increase in the local motel/hotel room tax ends. That increase has funded a Civil War tourism program this fiscal year.

The bureau's revenues are generated from state grants, sales, membership dues and the room tax, which returns to 3 percent on July 1.

Marketing goals include attracting more conventions to boost room sales, providing hospitality training at Hagerstown Junior College for employees of local businesses, and promoting local tourism attractions through the Internet to reach an international audience, Stansbury said.

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