Maryland seeks bumper crop of tourist cash

October 15, 1994|By Suzanne Wooton | Suzanne Wooton,Sun Staff Writer

You know, of course, about the city boy who wanted to know if chocolate milk comes from brown cows?

Well, he's just the type of gee-whiz kid that Maryland's travel industry is looking for as it tries to capitalize on the growing "agri-tourism movement" along with other more traditional vacation attractions.

"We're seeing a number of vacations where you bring your family to a farm and work," said Mary Jo McCulloch, spokeswoman for the Maryland Tourism Council Inc., the trade association for the state's travel industry.

"People live in cities and they don't know what farming is like."

As travelers look for more economical trips, the farm vacation is becoming merely one new option for boosting Maryland's $4.6 billion-a-year tourism industry.

Equally hot is the "eco-tourism" movement, which blends tourism with sound ecological endeavors, such as the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

At the 14th annual Governor's Conference on Tourism, which begins today in Hagerstown, the message to tourists will be simple: regardless of your choice, Maryland offers diversity and convenience.

Studies show that most vacationers in Maryland arrive by car, traveling up to 200 miles, for three- and four-day stays.

"So the package we're trying to sell is, Maryland is a great place to come for a quick getaway," said Andrea Thomas, spokeswoman for the Maryland Office of Tourism Development.

This is a division of the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development, which is co-sponsoring the conference with the private tourism council.

"There's diversity, whether you want mountains or beaches or Camden Yards or historic Annapolis," she said.

"Everything you might be interested in is here, and they're all very close together."

Highlighting the three-day event will be a keynote address tomorrow from Peter McGugan, a psychologist-turned-trend watcher from Texas who advises the travel industry.

He will speak on the increasing popularity of "rest-cure" vacations, how to lure the baby boomers and their babies as well as the aging population, and how the recession has altered vacations.

The state plans to unveil a new marketing campaign, developed by the W.B. Doner advertising agency in Baltimore.

With a limited budget this year, it plans to advertise largely in newspapers.

A key goal is finding ways to keep the same tourists coming back year after year.

State officials say tourism provides more than 71,000 jobs, including restaurant, hotel and transportation workers as well as employees at tourist attractions like the National Aquarium.

The industry generates $345.3 million in state and local tax revenues.

"We realize that tourism has a major impact on our economy and will continue to be a major economic engine driver," said Ms. McCulloch.

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