South County Tourism has adjusted its sails

By Patricia Ann Chaffee
Press Writer

WAKEFIELD  South County Tourism has been planning for the potential challenges that a weakened economy can bring for the past two years, according to executive director Myrna George. These are challenging times. I think we have adjusted our sails for a changing economic climate and I'm cautiously optimistic.

A few years ago, the Today Show favorably compared Washington County to the Hamptons with regard to its level of advertising and ability to attract visitors. That level of advertising continues this year with a 100-page vacation planner with color photography. The distribution areas have also been expanded to include New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.

We are better positioned for the leisure market which has stayed pretty stable, says George. And families are looking for economic activities.

Ads are run by South County Tourism in major national publications like Yankee Magazine and Coastal Living and in the past, the area was named by Money Magazine as one of the top 12 best places to vacation in North America. This has not gone unnoticed as George reports that people are coming from Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and beyond. She and her staff attend trade shows and meet with tour operators and travel agents from Europe and the domestic market. Research shows that the majority of visitors come from within a 300- to 500-mile drive radius to explore the 11 towns, and more than 449 square miles that make up Washington County. People come for shopping, fine restaurants, the parks, 17 golf courses, rolling countrysides, lighthouse tours, museums and 100 miles of coastline.

We also serve a lot of dedicated generational return visitors, said George. As well as new younger families. People are well educated with a good means of income, looking for the South County experience.

We might see a slight decrease but we don't expect to see what is happening with the business travel industry, says George referring to a decline in business and corporate travel.