WESTMINSTER — Carroll County must work aggressively to attract tourists to its rolling countryside, historic towns and farmers' markets, the state tourism director said yesterday.
"We have all got to stay aggressive, now more than ever," said George Williams, director of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development. "We're not going to be down economically forever."
For now, though, there will be fewer advertisements touting the county's attractions because of budget cuts, said Joan D. Meekins, program administrator for the Carroll Office of Tourism.
The county tourism budget doesn't take priority over essential services, Commissioner President Donald I. Dell said.
"If it comes down to fixing potholes and people's health, those kinds of things are my priorities over tourism," he said. "I'm not a strong promoter of tourism.
"Carroll County's an attractive place. People are going to come from wordof mouth as much as tourism advertising."
Steven D. Powell, director of the county Department of Management and Budget, said yesterdayhe couldn't say how much the county's $147,455 tourism budget will be cut.
Departments will be asked to make 2 percent or 5 percent cuts and possibly more, he said. Details about the cuts will be released tomorrow, he said.
Williams said Carroll's tourism budget is typical for an area of its size and population.
"I certainly hope they don't cut it," he said.
Williams spoke about the state's effortsto attract tourists at a breakfast sponsored by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce at Friendly Farm Restaurant.
The state tourism budget is $5 million for the current fiscal year, down from $6.9 million in the last fiscal year, he said.
"Advertising is my way of getting to consumers," Williams said. "You've got to go get business."
The state's push to attract weekend visitors fits for Carroll County, Williams said. Because many people have cut back on the amount ofmoney they spend on vacations, the state is encouraging weekend jaunts, he said.
People want to "get outside of the urban chaos and tour the countryside," Williams said. They "look for more frequent little trips outside that jungle."
Tourism in Carroll brings in $50.5 million a year in revenue, Meekins said. Because of budget cuts, the county won't be able to publish a calendar of events, as it has the past two years, she said.
It also will have to cut back on advertising in magazines such as Mid-Atlantic Country and won't be able to renew its memberships in several tourism associations, she said.
Thecounty will continue to distribute a new brochure with the theme "Catch Your Breath" and will use advertisements designed in past years, Meekins said.
"We are recycling a lot of information because of budget restraints," she said.
Part of the money to pay for the new brochure came from a state grant, she said. Printing costs for one year were $8,600; design costs, which will be spread over a three-year period, were $8,300, she said.
Tourism is "a promising economic tool," Williams said. "Everyone depends on the tourism industry for someportion of their livelihood."
In Maryland, tourism brought in $8.6 billion in 1989, the Department of Economic and Employment Development reported.
Retail stores, restaurants, churches and others feelthe benefit of tourism dollars, he said.
"We all have a role to play. The role is, we have to extend a welcome, courteous treatment and a high quality of service," Williams said.
Won't be 'downeconomically forever'