At #MACoCon, Attendees Dive into Innovative Tourism as Drivers of Local Economy

At the 2022 MACo Summer Conference, attendees learned about the innovative and creative ways local governments are supporting local tourism as post-pandemic economic drivers.

Like many other areas of county service, Maryland’s tourism industry has experienced unprecedented challenges over the past two years. Throughout the pandemic, counties developed new strategies to attract visitors or began promoting a new kind of tourism altogether. As a crucial service to their communities, tourism departments began focusing on innovative or expanded outdoor and online offerings, and became a hub of workforce development and community revitalization projects, among other outside-the-box solutions.

At the 2022 MACo Summer Conference session, “Destination Maryland – Tourism of Tomorrow,” county representatives discussed new and revised visions for promoting tourism and how they can be applied statewide to bolster Maryland’s economy. 

Session speakers:

  • Wesley Heinz, Executive Director, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad 
  • Kristen Goller, President, Maryland Association of Destination Marketing Organizations  
  • Dan Spedden, President, Visit Hagerstown and Washington County  
  • Lucille Walker, Executive Director, Destination Southern Maryland 

Moderator:

  • The Honorable Senator Antonio Hayes 

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad was able to leverage the moment of the pandemic to rebrand and transform into the “economic engine” of Western Maryland. One way  did so is through branded, themed events like Ice Cream Train rides, Pumpkin and Murder Mystery rides, and a Polar Express experience. Wesley Heinz, Executive Director, Western Maryland Scenic Railroad explained that “If you can find a visible tool in tourism that users can attach to, you have a winning idea.”

Lucille Walker discussed Maryland’s Heritage Areas, which touch all 24 of the State’s counties. Walker explained that that each helps tell the story of what makes Maryland, Maryland and how we can leverage those stories to offer post-pandemic perspective and experiences.

Additionally, Kristen Goeller, president of Maryland Association of Destination Marketing Organizations, talked about how county tourism professionals leveraged their event planning and management skills to help with response efforts during COVID. They organized and testing sites, youth and school programs, and they helped advertise COVID guidance and response.

The session was held on August 18, 2022, at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD.

More about MACo’s Summer Conference:

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