2018 began much like any other year. And then the rain began, and it seemed as though it would never end. In fact, by the end of the year it had rained more than half of the days in 2018. That will take its toll on tourism, especially if you run a business that relies on dry days. Event attendance was impacted, and for some, completely closed them down. When your largest attraction is outdoors, you must find ways to run between the raindrops and make the best of it. And in Adams County, we did just that.
With messaging in print, radio and online, Destination Gettysburg reached out to visitors near and far. And, even in the rain, they came. The year-end Smith Travel Research report (STR) showed that for the third year in a row, demand for hotel/motel overnights was up 3.6 percent in 2018. This increase follows a record year in 2017 when demand was up 5.4-percent. The Bed & Breakfast segment also saw a demand increase of 7.8 percent, the first-time demand increased for this accommodation type in the last three. Revenue was also up according to the STR report. The increase of 2.2 percent over 2018 follows on the heels of a 6.1 percent increase in 2017. Regardless of weather, the industry had grown.
In 2014, Destination Gettysburg had begun to tell the bigger story of the visitor experience in Adams County. We positioned ag-tourism, culinary and recreation up front with the history, instead of as support experiences. In doing so, it became clear through the interest of travel writers, travelers and tour operators that this ‘new’ product was exciting and desired. With that knowledge, and research into other similar experiences, the Destination Gettysburg team spent the winter months assembling a new experience - one that was from the earth, a very authentic Adams County experience that we knew our visitors would enjoy.
On May 11, 2018, the Adams County Pour Tour emerged touting over a dozen local craft beverage producers. Unlike other beverage trails that focus on wine or beer, our trail brought together all of our tastes and flavors – wine, cider, beer and spirits. Complete with a passport program that allows trekkers to collect stamps and earn prizes for enjoying our hand-crafted libations, the trail caught on quickly and has secured a following of locals as well as visitors. With a little help from the media, nearly 40 stories from national and regional journalists have been placed in various publications helping kick-start the enthusiasm. Since launch, over 13,000 stamps have been collected resulting in over 1,000 prizes, including a grand prize getaway to a lucky visitor from Maryland. Looking ahead at 2019, the Pour Tour continues with the potential of more stops and stamps being added, a new event in August and a branded concert series.
It is with the help of our frontline, Hospitality Heroes, that programs like the Adams County Pour Tour become successful. In 2018, Destination Gettysburg expanded the Hospitality Heroes program to include a monthly newsletter and regular familiarization events. These monthly outings provide the opportunity for frontline workers in our community to experience attractions, restaurants and more firsthand so they can help visitors find new experiences, discover amazing food options and truly immerse themselves in our community. The program, managed by the Destination Gettysburg Membership Department, is open to all frontline employees in Adams County who interact with visitors – that means anyone from a server to a housekeeper, a front desk employee to convenience store clerk. The 2019 program is already in progress with an upcoming event in March. Anyone interested in learning more should email Erin Pearce at email@example.com.
Growth has been part of life at Destination Gettysburg. The industry has grown, the demand and revenue has grown, and very slowly, the staff of the organization has grown. It took thirteen years, but we managed to outgrow our home on Middle Street. We knew it was coming, we could feel it happening. We converted meeting rooms into shared offices one too many times and there was just no more room. It was time to move and like everything done at Destination Gettysburg, a group was pulled together to research the options. Of course, preference was to be in the town of Gettysburg. If a place was available, it typically didn’t have the parking needed. If it had parking, it lacked in adequate internal space or needed so much work it was not a good investment. In late summer, the news had hit the streets, we had bought the old WGTY building behind the Gettysburg Times.
By November, we were in the new building, complete with new training conference space. The idea behind our move was to prepare Destination Gettysburg for the next 20 years. That included ensuring we had space for offering educational sessions to our membership. We also wanted to be sure we had room to grow staff in the future. We were happy to take an existing building and with little renovation have a state-of-the-art facility for today and tomorrow.
Destination Gettysburg is always looking at tomorrow, it is part of what we do. Just as we sit today, on a snowy day in winter looking out to spring and the student travel expected, then to summer when families, couples and friends fill our battlefield, towns, and countryside. The team is already focused on what our messaging will be, how we will use our social media to gather amazing content from travelers to share with others, and which experiences will interest the meeting planners and tour operators for fall and holidays. We look to inspire – our travelers, our businesses, and our community – to enjoy all that Adams County has to offer and to offer the best in hospitality.