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Tourism after Sept. 11 the topic of seminar

April 11, 2002|BY SARAH MULLIN

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Tourism experts said Wednesday the hassles of air travel following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will boost the popularity of day trips and likely will benefit Tri-State area tourist destinations.

The topic of "Tourism Following Sept. 11" was part of a two-day seminar co-sponsored by the Martinsburg-Berkeley and Jefferson County convention and visitors bureaus in Martinsburg. The seminar ends today.

"The friction ... around traveling because it is much more difficult to get around these days will make local tourism and day trips much more attractive to people," said Mike Hicks, director of research for the Center of Business and Economic Research and assistant professor of economics at Marshall University's Lewis College of Business.

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"The tens of millions of people traveling locally means good things out of a bad event for Hagerstown, Martinsburg, Harpers Ferry and Cumberland," he said.

A report issued by West Virginia Division of Tourism showed travel to the Eastern Gateway Region, which includes the Eastern Panhandle, accounted for 8.1 percent of the state's overnight leisure travel in 2000, which represented 540,000 person-trips.

State Tourism Commissioner and Chief of the West Virginia Bureau of Commerce Alisa Bailey echoed Hicks' assessment of tourism, adding that the numbers in day trip travel are increasing.

Hicks said the multifaceted approach to vacation is gaining popularity. He said families want multiple things to do such as gaming, shopping, historical tourism and adventure and outdoor recreation.

Bob O'Connor, executive director of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said tourism was the main industry affected by the attacks, but tourism in the local area is about the same as it was before the attacks.

"We look forward to a good spring and summer in the Eastern Panhandle because we are a close distance from Washington, D.C., and we are looked upon as a safe place," O'Connor said.

Hicks said a research project conducted with the Jefferson County Convention and Visitors Bureau showed that the terrorist attacks have had no real affect on local tourism.

"There has been very little immediate impact on West Virginia, Western Maryland, Central and Southern Pennsylvania and Western and Northern Virginia," he said.

"People will want to come here to something small and real and get away from the big," said Tylisa Beveridge of the Ranson (W.Va.) Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Julie Heiser, director of tourism for the Washington, D.C., Convention and Tourism Corporation, told the group that the city's tourism industry was forced to change focus after the attacks, O'Connor said.

"She talked about how the corporation has to promote that D.C. is a safe city and see that democracy is alive and well," he said.

O'Connor said the tourism industry lost about 20,000 jobs.

"The effects from the person who was going to fly in but who didn't trickles down" to many levels of tourism such as restaurants, hotels, taxi cabs and retail businesses, he said.

Even though no immediate effects from the attacks have been felt locally, Hicks said the future effects on tourism will stem from "the cost of waging a war.

"There will be less resources available to purchase the things we need," he said.

Today, speakers will discuss advertising, grants and research and technology in the tourism industry.

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