Maryland's Tip for Vacationers: Everything You Need Is Right Here

By Steve Hendrix and Lauren Wiseman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, June 19, 2008

With $4-a-gallon gas prices and airline fuel surcharges casting a chill over summer travel plans, local and state tourism promoters are setting their sights decidedly closer to home.

To encourage Marylanders to take short trips, the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau launched a stay-close-to-home campaign last month known as "Trips on a Tankful."

The marketing campaign, with advertising spots on radio and online, encourages Washington area residents to visit Anne Arundel County, and cities such as Annapolis, as an alternative to more distant vacation destinations.

"In the past when gas prices increased, we have not been concerned about people traveling to the county," said Connie Del Signore, the visitors bureau's president and chief executive. "But the combination of factors -- high gas prices, high cost of consumer goods, cost of traveling internationally -- led us to think that it was an opportunity to capture visitors to our area.

"There are attractions in the county that people will enjoy. Annapolis has a European feeling. In South County, there is historic Londontown and the African American heritage tour. There are marinas and restaurants. We think there is a lot to explore."

The visitors bureau has a link on its home page,, with information on activities, hotels and restaurants in the county.

Elsewhere in Maryland, state tourism officials began a $2 million effort this spring to persuade residents of its largest urban centers, the District and Baltimore, to vacation in their own back yard.

"Usually states don't spend a lot of time focused on their own residents, but I thought it was time," said Margot Amelia, executive director of the Maryland Office of Tourism.

"Sometimes you have to remind people. Our destinations have changed a lot in the last 15 years."

Tourism is an $11 billion industry in Maryland, and the state has long pitched itself aggressively as a beach-to-mountain destination. In recent years, those campaigns have cast a regional and national net in the search for tourists.

This year's narrowed focus is based on research showing that the vast majority of "visitors" to Maryland are, in fact, Marylanders or their closest neighbors. About one-quarter of tourists to Maryland come from the Washington area, including the District's Maryland and Virginia suburbs; 14 percent come from Baltimore. Ten percent come from Philadelphia, which is also a target market of the campaign.

Given the sluggish economy and eye-popping fuel prices, state officials decided to make their pitch more local this time around. The state's "Pretty. Close." campaign uses print, broadcast and online ads to let locals know about such new attractions as the Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor in Prince George's County and the indoor whitewater of the Adventure Sports Center at Deep Creek Lake, and to spark memories of such venerable standbys as Ocean City and the many corners of the Chesapeake Bay.

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