Harford County awarded 15 nonprofits $645,000 to encourage overnight tourism to the county.
Harford County has awarded nearly $645,000 in FY 2024 tourism grants to 15 local nonprofits aimed at creating “more extended or weekend-long events that increase the number of overnight visitors” to the county. The tourism grants, which have been around for a while, were reorganized into two new funds: the Partnership Fund and the Harford Strides Fund. The reorganization was part of a greater tourism refocusing strategy from County Executive Bob Casilly to better align the county’s six percent hotel tax with the original intent of the tax.
According to a press release:
An overnight visitor to Harford County spends an average of $1,200 per visit, whereas a day-tripper only spends about $98 per visit, according to the Maryland Office of Tourism. The average stay in the county is 1.8 days.
The Partnership Fund encourages multiple nonprofit groups to plan events to draw guests overnight or longer. Increasing the number of overnight stays will generate additional tourism funding to distribute, which will, in turn, create more overnight visits. Harford County will distribute $374,620 in Partnership Fund grants. Organizations receiving funds are:
- Bel Air Downtown Alliance/Ladew Gardens, $100,000;
- Havre de Grace Decoy Museum, $85,000;
- Maryland Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, $57,000;
- Steppingstone Museum Association, $57,000;
- Highland Community Association, $35,000;
- The Friends of Concord Point Lighthouse, $19,620; and
- Havre de Grace Arts Collective, $15,000.
The Harford Strides Fund gives tourism-related organizations grant money to help them make strides toward qualifying for Partnership Fund money. They must show how they will sustain themselves with other outside funding within three years and how they attract visitors from beyond Harford’s borders. Harford County will distribute $270,000 in Harford Strides Fund grants. Organizations receiving funds are:
- Susquehannock Wildlife Society, $55,000;
- Cedar Lane Foundation, $50,000;
- Hosanna Community House, $50,000;
- Havre de Grace Colored School Museum and Cultural Center, $30,000;
- Susquehanna Museum of Havre de Grace, $28,500;
- Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, $25,000;
- Rockfield Foundation, $25,000; and
- Discovery Center at Water’s Edge, $6,500.
“My administration has reorganized these awards to promote events and activities that draw more people from all over the region to stay overnight here,” County Executive Cassilly said. “Those overnight guests will be able to see how much we have to offer in Harford County and will be supporting our small businesses, like restaurants and specialty shops. The more overnight visits, the greater the impact on our local economy.”
Part of a growing shift in local tourism
Counties all over Maryland are expanding and deepening strategies to attract more visitors and encourage extended stays. MACo will explore these new strategies, trends, and best practices at the 2023 MACo Summer Conference in Ocean City, Maryland, August 16-19.
The session, “Transformational Tourism – Turning Today‘s Opportunities Into Tomorrow‘s Necessities,” will be held on Thursday, August 17, 2023; 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm and will feature county and local tourism sector leaders to discuss the revolution of tourism in Maryland and how counties can best capitalize on new trends:
Tourism – a major economic driver in Maryland – looks very different now than it did a generation ago. Like many county service areas, tourism has experienced significant challenges and found new opportunities post-COVID. The new “work from anywhere“ corporate mindset and hot new travel trends like eco– and agro–tourism have opened up a world of possibilities. The legalization of adult-use cannabis may also become its own factor in Maryland‘s tourism landscape. Focusing on emerging tourism industries and building a workforce to meet these evolving needs should be central to any county‘s economic development strategy. In this panel, experts will discuss new trends, exciting opportunities, and how to best leverage today‘s tourism to support the local economy.