Tourism in Washington County remains healthy, with annual visitation in 2012 up by about 35 percent at most local tourist attractions, according to a local tourism official.
Thomas B. Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, delivered his annual report to the county Board of Commissioners on Tuesday.
“The state of the CVB is strong,” Riford told the five commissioners. “The state of tourism is strong.”
According to state lodging data found in the Maryland Office of Tourism’s biannual report for 2012, Washington County ranked first for increased demand for hotel rooms, up 9.3 percent from 2011.
Occupancy rates are up 11.1 percent and room revenues increased by 12.1 percent over 2011, also tops in the state for both categories.
Interest in heritage, recreational and arts/culture tourist attractions have shown increases, Riford said, and tourism jobs in the county are up by about 300 in the past year, amounting to about 6,700 total to date.
Overall, the number of day and overnight visitors to the county’s top 18 attractions increased from 2 million to 2.9 million from 2011 to 2012, according to Riford’s report. Retail shopping has also increased at the area’s major malls.
Individually, attractions that saw the biggest jumps in visitation included the C&O Canal (91 percent), Pry House (57 percent) and Gathland State Park (47.8 percent). Antietam National Battlefield saw a 32 percent increase due in part to numerous events in 2012 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam.
The CVB was chiefly supported by $936,000 in county lodging taxes in 2012, an increase of about 12 percent over 2011, according to the nonprofit agency’s financial report. With that, it spent about $418,000 for advertising this past year.
“That shows that marketing is working,” Riford said.
The month of May is known as Tourism Month, he said, adding that May 4 to 12 is Maryland and National Tourism Week.
After Riford’s presentation, the commissioners voted 5-0 to accept the CVB’s annual report.