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Franklin Co. focuses on tourism industry

June 10, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.-Travel, whether for business or pleasure, generates more than $300 million per year in Franklin County in direct, indirect and induced spending, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Travelers, defined as those who made an overnight trip or who traveled more than 50 miles on a day trip, spent more than $25.6 billion in Pennsylvania in 2005, according to state figures. Janet Pollard, director of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau, was hired earlier this year to convince more people to stop and spend those dollars here.

Last week, the county launched a tourism Web site, www.explorefranklincountypa.com, to entice more people to pull off Interstate 81, or stop on their way to or from Gettysburg, Pa.

"We're working to complete an events guide that comes out in early July," Pollard said Thursday. The guide will be distributed to visitors centers around the state, she said.

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Next year, the bureau plans to have a "full-blown" visitors guide published, Pollard said.

"You really need that piece to support the Web site," Pollard said. The launch of the Web site was one of the major goals the bureau had for 2007, she said.

Franklin County had been part of the Capital Region Visitors Bureau, but the county withdrew to use its annual $450,000 in hotel taxes to promote travel here rather than take a back seat to Hersheypark and other attractions in south-central Pennsylvania.

The advertising budget for the bureau is $80,000 for this year, $90,000 in 2008 and $100,000 in 2009, according to its three-year plan. Much of it will be spent for placement in periodicals such as Pursuits Magazine, Bus Tours Magazine and the Pennsylvania Travel Guide, as well as Civil War Times and Military History.

Establishing relationships with leisure and hospitality businesses was another 2007 goal, Pollard said, something that will be done in quarterly meetings around the county. It is important for Chambers of Commerce, economic development officials and business people from different parts of the county to meet on different turf to know what tourist attractions should be promoted, she said.

Also on the agenda for this year are meetings with bus line and motorcoach associations to build that trade. One such meeting is to be with the Ontario Motorcoach Association in November, Pollard said. Canadian "snowbirds" pass through the county along Interstate 81, and she wants them to know that "when you're tired and weary, we have a pillow for you in Franklin County."

Transportation accounts for $73 million of that economic contribution from travel and tourism in the county, according to state figures. Shopping was the biggest category at $105 million, and food and beverage sales account for $96 million. Lodging contributed about $19 million in 2005, the most recent year for which figures were available.

The state figures estimated the direct economic benefit - what people pay for food, lodging, gas and other travel expenses - at $156 million. Indirect spending, such as what restaurants pay suppliers to support their businesses, was estimated at more that $72 million.

The induced effect - how wages paid to travel and tourism employees are spent locally - was estimated at another $95 million, according to the study.

"Probably 80 percent of my business comes from tourists or people who have moved here in the last five years," said Mark Miller, the owner of Gypsy, an antique and gift shop in Chambersburg and chairman of the visitors bureau's advisory board.

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