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Md. businesses look to profit from war anniversary

EMMITSBURG — Emmitsburg antiques dealer Dora Connolly has canceled her annual July trip to a show in Connecticut.

Connolly will stay put for the next two years, she said, hoping to capitalize on tourists coming to the region for next year’s 150th anniversary of the Civil War battle fought in neighboring Gettysburg, Pa.

The Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau estimates the 150th anniversary will attract 4 million people in 2013, but many visitors are expected to make the trek this year to avoid the 2013 crush, and local establishments hope to benefit from tourists coming through Frederick County on their way to the battlefields.

“I can’t say how many (people) will pass through Maryland,” said Carl Whitehill, media relations manager for the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, “but both Maryland and Virginia are two of our biggest markets, and we would suspect that there would be a lot of visitors passing through, many even staying overnight in Frederick County.”

Fearing huge crowds, many people did not attend the battle’s centennial in 1963, Connolly said.

“I think people will come this year to avoid the crowds next year,” Connolly said.

Winemaker Voytek Leon Fizyta, one of the Frederick Wine Trail’s nine members, believes his vineyard’s location off U.S. 15 in Thurmont makes it an ideal stop for tourists passing through the county on their way to Gettysburg.

Though a lot of attention is being paid to Gettysburg, David Price, director of strategic initiatives at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in downtown Frederick, said the public should be reminded that Antietam National Battlefield’s 150th anniversary is in September, “and that will affect Frederick more so than Gettysburg,” he said.

The 150th anniversary of the less famous Battle of Monocacy, fought just outside Frederick and known as “the battle that saved Washington,” comes in July 2014.

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine attracts visitors from every state and more than 20 countries, and according to Executive Director George Wunderlich, it is clocking impressive numbers.

Year-to-date individual ticket sales through February are up 31.68 percent from 2011; facility use fees are up 93.75 percent; group tour sales are up 64.5 percent; and special programs sales are up 134.44 percent.

Surveys show that museum visitors stayed a total of more than 27,000 room nights in fiscal 2011, Wunderlich said. This includes families and individuals staying multiple nights.

About 94 percent of visitors to the museum live more than 50 miles away, and the museum expects its attendance to increase in the 2012-13 fiscal year, Wunderlich said.

Frederick gets visitors from around the world, with citizens of some European countries, particularly the United Kingdom and Germany, showing a lot of interest in the American Civil War, according to John Fieseler, executive director of the Tourism Council of Frederick County.

Of the roughly 1,100 visitors who stop at the Frederick Visitor Center each year, the greatest numbers in the past several years are from the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany.

“We see Canadian visitors every month of the year, as this includes so-called ‘snowbirds’ on their way between Canada and Florida,” Fieseler said. “The peak visitation for them is still the summer months, though.”

German visits pick up in the spring and run through the end of the year, while those from England peak in the summer and fall, Fieseler said.

“We’ll get a handful of visitors from lots of other countries, too,” he said.

In percentage terms, Austria showed the largest gain last year, going from two in 2010 to 26 in 2011 — a 1,200 percent increase, he said.

And the number of visitors from Australia almost doubled, from 67 in 2010 to 106 in 2011.

While Washington is a top destination for visitors from around the world, Civil War sites help draw some of them north to Frederick County, Fieseler said.

“When you’ve flown across the ocean, a 50-mile excursion from D.C. is no issue to them,” he said.

“International visitors don’t represent a major portion of our visitation; however, when they do come, they stay longer and spend more money.”

Specific figures are not available on foreign visitor spending in Frederick County, but Fieseler said, “Anecdotally, we hear that the patterns here are similar to elsewhere in the U.S.”

But tourism officials are not resting on their laurels.

“We cannot take for granted that visitors will come here anyway,” Fieseler said. “Marketing is an ongoing need in our industry.”

The Tourism Council of Frederick County participates in cooperative international marketing efforts through the Capital Region USA partnership of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, he said, to market the region abroad.