Cumberland Times-News

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November 12, 2013

County tourism numbers growing

CUMBERLAND — The number of tourists visiting Allegany County continues to grow, according to Barbara G. Buehl, the executive director of Allegany County Tourism.

“The main tracker is the hotel/motel tax,” Buehl said. That doesn’t give specific numbers of visitors but a money number based on hotel and motel occupancy and it’s been going up, Buehl said. That means more people are staying overnight in the county, Buehl said. “We also look at stats on the website and then the visitor’s center,” Buehl said.

The year to date hotel/motel taxes for 2013 through October are $975,770, not including Rocky Gap lodge numbers. In 2012, the annual number was $1,011,398; in 2011 the number was $980,911.

Hard numbers are available from the visitor’s center, where records are kept on the number of visitors and inquiries. In October 2013, 6,743 people came to the visitor’s center at the Western Maryland Station. For the same month in 2012, the number was 3,768. This year’s numbers are already ahead of last year’s for center visits. This year there have already been 29,824 visitors compared to the 2012 total of 25,446. The largest number of those visitors wanted information on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail and the C&O Canal National Historical Park, according to tourism statistics.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, the numbers show that the largest single contingent of visitors were from Maryland, with 5,191 visitors. The largest number of U.S. visitors were from surrounding and nearby states: Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Virginia. There were 822 visitors from New York and 249 from New Jersey, but only two visitors from North Dakota showed up at the center.

There are also international visitors to Allegany County. There have been 367 foreign visitors to the center this year, according to the statistics. The largest contingents of visitors came from Canada, with 103 and England, with 109. These numbers only cover visitors voluntarily offering information at the visitor’s center.

“They are all trending in the same direction, so we know it’s not a fluke,” Buehl said. “We’re having a great year so far this year.” For the past 10 years, except for a couple of years in the depth of the recession, tourism numbers have been growing, Buehl said.

Several attractions are very important, but the use of the Great Alleghe­­ny Passage Trail, not open all the way to Pittsburgh, is the latest heavy hitter, along with the new Rocky Gap Casino Resort, Buehl said.

There is one more important factor, Buehl said, and that’s the ambience of the area.

“People still relate to small town charm,” she said.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at mbieniek@times-news.com.

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