Tourism agency's transition under fire

May 21, 1997


Staff Writer

Several Washington County Commissioners expressed concern Tuesday about the direction of the Convention and Visitors Bureau transition team.

"I just see everything being destroyed under this transition team," said Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers.

The commissioners questioned the transition team's intention to no longer support municipalities and local tourism activities and efforts, such as the MSO, Miss Maryland, Antietam Luminaires, HagerFest, Bluesfest and other events.

The CVB instead will take the $500,000 in income it has each year and spend it on a visitor's guide, brochures, tour maps, Civil War promotions, outreach marketing and a director with a small staff, according to a letter to the commissioners.


The county would have to pick up the tab to support those other events if they want them supported, according to the letter.

Bowers also questioned the closing of the area tourism information centers except for the one on Public Square in Hagerstown.

"Who gave Richard the authorization to shut down Breezewood (Pa.)?" Bowers asked. He was referring to County Attorney Richard Douglas.

County Administrator Rodney Shoop replied that the transition team had.

"That is wrong," Bowers said. "They don't run Richard, we do."

"An outside person not knowing what's going on is going to think the county shut that down," said Commissioner John S. Shank.

Bowers said that as a courtesy, people in Hancock should have been given an opportunity to have input on the closing of Breezewood.

Snook, a member of the transition team, encouraged the other commissioners to attend the meetings.

"There will be no information center except the one that's going to get everybody downtown," he said.

In an interview after the meeting, Bowers criticized the transition team, saying it concentrated on downtown Hagerstown to the detriment of everything else.

"They've gotten too big and too powerful in a couple of week period to understand the importance of long-range tourism. They've allowed their power to get into the way of common sense."

Bowers said information centers can be valuable because a key to tourism involves stopping travelers just before they reach your area and enticing them to come by. Information centers are effective at doing that, according to Bowers, who said it made no sense to expect tourists to drive to downtown Hagerstown to get information.

Shank suggested that the commissioners talk to members of the state delegation and see what their feelings are on the issue before responding to the transition team's letter.

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