Westminster described as key to tourism efforts in Carroll City's name recognition will help draw visitors to county, state official says

March 27, 1998|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

State tourism director George E. Williams said yesterday that he plans to "de-emphasize Carroll County and push up the importance of Westminster" in travel and tourism promotions.

The reason is simple, Williams told members of the county's Economic Development Commission: Tourists remember the names of cities and towns but not, as a rule, the counties surrounding those towns and cities.

"There are about 12 real top names in the state," he said, "and Westminster is one of those."

Having name recognition is important because 80 percent of the state's tourism dollars -- $6 billion annually -- are spent in those places, Williams said.

County Commissioner W. Benjamin Brown, who sat in on Williams' talk along with Commissioner Donald I. Dell, said he understood the director's remarks "from the perspective of spending state dollars" to promote tourism.

Williams is "probably right that Westminster is more 'famous' than Carroll County," Brown said. "But I don't think that means we in Carroll County should focus solely on Westminster."

The county has historical and recreational areas that should be marketed to people attracted to Westminster, Brown said. It is an ideal location for people who want "to safely see Washington, safely see Baltimore, safely see Philadelphia and take a spin up to Gettysburg," he said.

Dell said he found Williams' plan to use Westminster as a tourism magnet "encouraging" because the county does not have the kinds of attractions that lure tourists elsewhere.

He cited Frederick as an example. Williams said it was the state's fourth most popular tourist destination after Baltimore, Annapolis and Ocean City.

Frederick boasts nearby mountains and Civil War battlefields. Carroll's biggest attraction, Dell said, is the Farm Museum in Westminster, home to a popular fall wine festival.

"We have to work harder to be number one" in tourism, Dell said. "We have to balance what we spend in promoting ourselves with what we receive" in tourism revenues.

More than 21 million visitors traveled more than 50 miles to Maryland last year and spent the night, Williams said.

"Spending the night, that's the important thing," he said. "Quite frankly, I'd like them to spend two nights -- or three or four."

People who visited the state overnight last year spent more per person per day than the national average, Williams said, but they stayed only half as long. The state's goal is to increase the length of stay through an aggressive marketing program, he said.

The promotions will feature "a descriptive hook line and play off it," he said. The hook line is "so many things to do so close together." Variations will be "so many fun things to do so close together," "so many historical things to do so close together" and the like.

Since more than 85 percent of the nations' tourists use "ground travel" to reach their destinations, the state will promote road tours with historical themes and give them names like "Civil War Trails," "1812 Trails," or "French and Indian Trails," Williams said.

Each tour will have a 25-mile-wide corridor "linking heritage areas to each other," he said.

In addition, exit signs similar to those for gas or lodging on interstates will be placed on many Maryland roads to display icons of tourist attractions, Williams said.

Williams had more than talk for members of the Economic Development Commission. He presented them with a "replica" of a $20,000 check that the county will receive from the state soon to help promote Carroll tourism.

Pub Date: 3/27/98

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