A move from Towson Town Center into rent-free space in downtown Towson next month promises to make the county's tourism office more visible, but officials are eyeing another relocation to an even more prominent location eventually - the Hampton National Historic Site.
The agency's storefront visitor center on the mall's ground floor costs $1,000 a month to lease and rarely drew more than 75 people a month. A tourism advisory council, appointed earlier this year, strongly recommended a more visible location.
"The mall was just not the right place to receive traditional visitors and encourage them to extend their experience," said Jill Feinberg, director of Baltimore County Conference and Tourism.
Nancy Hafford, director of the Towson Chamber of Commerce and an advisory council member, offered the tourism agency space in the chamber's newly acquired building at 44 W. Chesapeake Ave. She said she is certain visitor traffic will increase significantly.
"In our building, tourism will be more visible," Hafford said.
While Feinberg is delighted with a location near the Courthouse Plaza, she is negotiating for a permanent home at the 63-acre Hampton site, which attracts 35,000 visitors a year to its mansion and outbuildings located off the Beltway and Dulaney Valley Road.
"That visibility will move tourism to a whole new level," said David S. Iannucci, economic development director.
A visitors center could help make the mansion the county's centerpiece destination, she said.
"Hampton hits all the tourism sweet spots from historic and future points of view," she said. "There are so many stories there on so many topics."
Tourism generated about $1.8 billion in revenues in 2007, according to the most recently available statistics, and grew by more than 3 percent from 2006.
At a recent County Council budget meeting, Iannucci urged more funding for tourism, noting the county's contribution to the industry is nearly the lowest in the state, 22nd of the 23 jurisdictions.
"We see great opportunities to combine quality of life and tourism opportunities," he said.