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Tourism industry alive and well in state, county

August 04, 2006|by TOM RIFORD

Special to The Daily Mail

Gov. Robert Ehrlich announced this week that the tourism industry in the state is very healthy

Almost 28 million people visited Maryland last year, generating $10 billion for the state's economy. Official figures were released Tuesday by the Maryland Office of Tourism Development. Ehrlich announced the new statistics at a special ceremony in Baltimore.

Those statistics reveal numbers that are higher than those previously measured by the Travel Industry Association. The TIA has begun using what is said to be a more accurate method of reporting, including using Internet surveys.

Joining the governor at the announcement was Dennis Castleman, who serves as the head of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development, and he indicated that many states were undercounting tourism industry statistics. Maryland and 31 other states now use the new survey method. Mail-in surveys historically had a very low rate of return, which produced a very small sampling size, and day-trippers were not being accounted for.

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About 15 million people visited Maryland on day-trips, and nearly 13 million spent at least one night in accommodations. A day-tripper is defined as a visitor who travels more than 50 miles to a destination, and not strictly on a work-related trip. Also, the new figures reflect only domestic tourists and don't count international visitors.

Castleman said that the new statistics represent about a 5 percent growth over the previous year, which he attributed to the state's marketing efforts and coordination with local tourism councils, including with Washington County's CVB. Interesting to note, two-thirds of the tourists came from nearby, about a third from inside Maryland and another third from Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Business travelers represented 22 percent of the visitors, while leisure travelers continue to fill up airline seats and hotels.

These new tourism statistics were gleefully announced by the governor this week. Pointing out the positive economic impact of the industry, Ehrlich echoed what the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau is frequently quoted as saying, "Visitors come to our state, spend money and then they leave." This means jobs, investment in our communities and also opportunities for our citizens.

The governor also pointed out that artistic and cultural events and institutions help attract new businesses to Maryland.

The Washington County Arts Council reports that events, concerts, shows and exhibits have greatly increased. Arts Council-sponsored summertime music events have grown from three concerts just two years ago to 56 concerts - including City Park and University Plaza events. The audience served by the Arts Council summertime concerts has grown from about 600 to about 12,000. Including the various other events and activities, like the performance series at HCC's amphitheatre, the pavilion events at Doub's Woods and all the other efforts - the total audience for Arts Council events has increased from 20,000 to 74,900. Art and culture programming is certainly alive and well in Washington County.

This week's announcement illustrates that tourism has been a major focus of the governor's economic development efforts. Assistant Secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development James Rzepkowski was in Hagerstown this week, and he said at the Chamber of Commerce's Eggs and Issues that tourism was very important in Washington County, and had shown tremendous increases in the past two years, as the local economy continued to diversify.

For the State of Maryland, the TIA statistics revealed:

· Total tourists: 27.8 million

· People per trip: 1.8

· Average stay: 1.7 days

· Average spending per trip: $353

· States of origin: Md., 31 percent; Va., 16 percent; Pa., 16 percent; N.J., 7 percent; N.Y., 5 percent; W.Va., N.C., Del., about 2 percent each

(Source: Travel Industry Association)




Tom Riford is president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau. He can be reached at 301-791-3246. His column appears monthly in The Daily Mail. The CVB's Web site is at www.marylandmemories.com.

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