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Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau's efforts continue to grow

Tom Riford: Organization is anticipating about $1.05 million in revenue in 2012

December 07, 2011|By ANDREW SCHOTZ | andrews@herald-mail.com
  • Thomas B. Riford, the president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, reviews the past year's events for Washington County and plans for upcoming 2012 at the CVB annual membership meeting on Wednesday morning.
By Yvette May, Staff Photographer

Efforts by Washington County's tourism organization to reach and attract visitors to the area continue to grow, the group's leader said Wednesday.

Thomas B. Riford, the president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, described the organization as "strong."

The CVB is anticipating about $1.05 million in revenue in 2012, up about $85,000 from 2011, Riford said.

The group's promotional spending is up 80 percent since 2005, according to a PowerPoint presentation Riford made Wednesday at the CVB's annual meeting in Hagerstown.

This year was "challenging" for local hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfast inns and campgrounds, Riford said, pointing to a slide indicating that occupancy was about the same as 2010 and revenue was up about 2.9 percent.

He said the nonprofit membership organization has attended 30 conventions and shows to promote the county this year, up from 25 last year and 17 five years ago.

Those appearances led to more than 2,400 "highly qualified leads" sent to CVB members, he said.

The CVB worked with more than 120 groups, leading to more than 27,000 hotel room nights in Washington County in 2011 and the future, according to Riford.

The CVB gets 82 percent of its revenue from Washington County's lodging tax.

He said several new efforts this year helped generate local interest, including brochures focusing on museums, bridges and bicycle tours.

The CVB sponsored or helped with more than 25 events this year, Riford said.

One of its biggest marketing pushes for 2012 will be events related to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

The Journey Through Hallowed Ground, which describes itself as a nonprofit "four-state partnership dedicated to preserving our American heritage," is also focusing on the Civil War sesquicentennial, according to guest speaker Beth Erickson, the partnership's vice president.

Erickson and Riford emphasized that vibrant tourism creates jobs and injects money into the local economy.

Riford said Washington County's unemployment rate would roughly double if it had no tourism-related jobs.

Washington County ranks sixth among Maryland's jurisdictions for leisure and hospitality jobs and eighth for money spent by visitors, according to Riford's presentation.

About 2 million visitors came to the county in 2010, up 2.8 percent from 2009, the report said.

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