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'State of the convention and visitors bureau is strong'

Hotel-motel tax accounts for 82 percent of $1 million annual revenue of Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau

December 12, 2012|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau gets about 82 percent of its $1 million annual revenue from the hotel-motel tax, the organization’s president and CEO Tom Riford said.

Riford said Wednesday during a breakfast attended by about 125 CVB members that the remaining 18 percent, or roughly $180,000, of the CVB’s revenues, comes from grants, dues, gift shop proceeds and other sources.

“We bring people here, they spend money, and they leave, and that’s a good thing because they leave with wonderful memories about what a great place Washington County is,” Riford said.

He said the CVB exercises an aggressive campaign to bring outsiders to the county. In 2012, the welcome center mailed more than 5,500 visitors guides in response to inquiries from phone calls, emails and other sources.

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Riford said that for every dollar that is spent on advertising, $43 comes back to the local economy.

Operational and promotional expenses, which include sales and marketing, will make up about $709,000 of the CVB’s expenses in 2013, Riford said. Administrative expenses, such as utilities, salaries and rent, are expected to account for $323,000 of next year’s expenses.

“We pay rent to the City of Hagerstown,” he said. “In fact, we’re the only jurisdiction in the state that pays rent for our visitors center.”

Riford said that in addition to Civil War tourism, sporting events bring a lot of revenue to the county.

“That sports travel industry is huge money to Washington County ... One single softball tournament can be $25,000 to $45,000 of local visitor spending — just one weekend,” he said. “With 150 teams, just imagine how many hotel rooms that is.”

Those events help keep Washington County residents employed, Riford said. More that 6,200 people, or about 10 percent of the work force, is employed by the leisure and hospitality industry in Washington County.

Riford said the CVB’s website had more hits in 2012 than ever before, thanks in part to a redesign. He said the website had more than 500,000 page views in 2012, compared to about 250,000 in 2007. Some of the 2012 website visits, he said, included hits from Japan, France, Germany, Great Britain, Canada and Australia.

He said the CVB also reached an all-time high in membership last year.

“We have 300 members ... the state of the convention and visitors bureau is strong,” Riford said.

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