Profiting from state's rich historic heritage Added attractions: Maryland program hopes to lure tourists and day-trippers to less-visited sites.

May 13, 1998

ITS ATTRACTIONS and beauty are so varied that Maryland has long claimed to be America in miniature. As far as tourism goes, though, there is little reason for smugness. Visitors coming here do not spend as much or stay as long as the national average.

A program started two years ago is trying to change that.

So far, eight historic areas in Maryland have submitted blueprints for developing heritage tourism over the next 10 years and are hoping for matching funds from the state.

The goal: Lure visitors to lesser-known ethnic and specialized attractions that will round out their itineraries and lengthen their stays.

Annapolis is a splendid example. As recent weeks have shown, the state capital's historic district can get impossibly congested. That's why its heritage plan promotes such nearby sites as London Town, an 18th-century tobacco port, and Highland Beach, an early African-American summer resort started by a son of Frederick Douglass.

Another example is the Lower Eastern Shore, where efforts are being made to draw more Ocean City vacationers to such nearby towns as Berlin, Snow Hill and Princess Anne.

Developing tourist attractions and linking them are main goals of the heritage plan. "You can't sell an empty wagon," says Bill Pencek, a Maryland Historic Trust official.

Virginia (which, as everyone knows, is for lovers) and Pennsylvania ("memories last a lifetime") are fierce competitors for this region's travel dollars.

The heritage tourism program is a welcome addition to Maryland's efforts, but more is needed -- particularly money for aggressive promotions.

Pub Date: 5/13/98

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