Tourism officials in Frederick County send a representative to major conventions twice a month to interest tour operators in bringing their customers to Frederick for day trips.

Howard County officials have embarked on an all-out promotion to lure day travelers that includes direct mailings to businesses around the state and the publication of a leisure magazine touting interesting sites and events in the county.

Prince George's County has formed a Travel Promotion Council, which has responsibilities that include bringing day trippers into the county from other parts of Maryland plus the District and Virginia. Among the Prince George's efforts is the new Festival of Lights, a massive display of colored Christmas lights at the Watkins Regional Park Dec. 16-20.

The competition for tourists' dollars, always a key source of revenue in the Washington area, has moved into a new arena. Maryland and Virginia jurisdictions are busy promoting craft fairs, antique shows, historic reenactments and other events designed to attract the thousands of people living in the area who want a fun recreational activity for their weekends or on a day off.

"There are people who live in the state who have never been to Prince George's County, and they are who we are trying to attract," said J. Matthew Neitzey, executive director of the Prince George's Travel Promotion Council.

The push to encourage more day trips in the state surfaced most recently with the arrival of Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, whose administration is working to strengthen overall tourism in the state.

"The concept of the day tripper is very definitely a phenomenon right now," said Mary Lou Baker, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Economic and Employment Development. "We want people to travel from Southern Maryland to Annapolis and from Silver Spring to Western Maryland. The key is to keep the travel dollars in the state," Baker said.

According to statistics compiled by the Department of Economic and Employment Development, an estimated 25 million tourists spent more than $2 billion in Maryland in 1986, resulting in the need for 83,000 tourist-related jobs.

Anne Arundel County, with the presence of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, contributed $1.4 billion to travel expenditures in the state, while Baltimore, which boasts the Inner Harbor, luxury hotels and a convention center, contributed $705 million. Montgomery contributed $491.9 million, and Prince George's contributed $408 million.

Baker said that statistics showing what economic impact day travelers had on the state last year are not available. However, she said the day traveler accounts for a significant portion of those tourist dollars.

"Not everyone is interested in spending the night in the state, but that doesn't mean we don't want them here," Baker said.

In fact, the day traveler concept has become so popular that representatives of tourism councils are finding themselves having to spend a large percentage of their work days promoting and organizing day trips.

Connie New, administrative coordinator of the Tourism Council of Frederick County, said the county's efforts with bus operators have proved to be valuable.

"It's a way for us to entice them and stir up some interest in the county," she said.

New said the council offers "familiarization" tours to organized groups. The tours include free restaurant meals and tours of the historical sites and are aimed at getting people to return to the county.

Janet Filtzer of the Howard County Tourism Council said her group's direct mailings include newly designed county maps that highlight key historical sites and informative brochures.

"The day trip is becoming more and more popular, and we want to capture that market," Filtzer said.

Julie Rhodes, executive director of the Montgomery County Travel Council, said the day trip promotions are not new in her jurisdiction. She said that in addition to cashing in on the overnight tourists, the county has been host to bus tours and senior citizen groups from around the state plus Virginia and Pennsylvania who have requested tours of the county's popular Brookside Gardens and the burial place of author F. Scott Fitzgerald.

But representives of tourism councils around the state say they have not abandoned promotions geared toward the overnight tourists, many of whom are headed to Washington or Baltimore.

"I'd be wrong if I didn't say {Washington-bound tourists are} our main attraction," Neitzey said. "We tell them they can stay in {Prince George's County} cheaper than they can in Washington, and then once we get them here we show them what we have to offer."

At least one area of the state does not see the day traveler market as a profitable one. Herman Schieke, president of the Tourism Council of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, said his group has forsaken the day tripper for the executive and overnight tourist.