Leonardtown, MD – Visit St. Mary’s presented stakeholders with updates on “tourism development and marketing initiatives” Thursday April 25, following a similar presentation given to the county commissioners earlier in the week.

Jason Aul, the organization’s Director of Tourism since last July, spoke at Sheperd’s Old Field Market in Leonardtown Thursday evening, highlighting new marketing campaigns and priorities for driving tourism to the county. Aul expressed that the organization’s priority is “driving overnight visitation with the understanding that doing so will also drive day trippers.”

Improving lodging in the area is one of the priorities to promote the longer stays. Two key developments in the area include the sale and renovation of the Executive Inn and prospect of a new resort/conference center hotel at the forefront of this effort. “We’re excited that the hotel is turning over, we’ll likely be getting a new restaurant in the hotel. It’s going to be a great added feature to not just the town but the county,” said Aul of the inn which sold for $2.3 million earlier this year. The tourism director then explained that the organization is waiting to receive the full report on the feasibility of adding the resort “ideally placed in the wharf extension/downtown area” of Leonardtown. According to Aul the “preliminary report was positive” and the full report should be completed “around May 6.”

The resort and inn renovations align with Visit St. Mary’s vision to make Leonardtown St. Mary’s “tourism hub,” marketing the town to residents as well. “We want residents to be the biggest champions of the county and of Leonardtown,” said Aul of the “Inside Out Campaign.” Tagging friends, hash tagging, and using social media is a hope of Aul and the organization so that residents market the county and town themselves.

During a similar presentation to the commissioners at their April 23 meeting, the commissioners were very supportive and “glad to hear” that the organization is focusing on overnight stays. Some ways Visit St. Mary’s is encouraging visitors to stay the night is by creating new multi-day events, encouraging existing events to extend to multiple days, and by focusing “cooperative marketing” funding to events that bring in an overnight crowd. Aul touted the fact that the Potomac Jazz and Seafood Festival, an event in its 20th year, “won’t just be a one-day event but instead a three-day affair.” The prospect of seven new turf fields at Chancellor’s Run in the Commissioner’s proposed FY2020 budget also has the potential to bring in new overnight events according to Aul. “Sports tourism, specifically getting youth sporting events, college and younger, down here is going to be an incredible chance to increase our overnight visitation.”

Aul’s April 23 presentation also focused on the organization’s regional marketing to local metropolitan areas and emphasis on bringing weddings to the county. Marketing for the county’s tourism focuses on “Four Distinct Pillars,” Small Town Charm, Heritage, Outdoors, and History & Culture. Promotional materials use words like “boundless” and “limitless,” “showing visitors can make their experience their own,” according to Aul. The four main markets for promoting the county as a tourist destination are D.C., Baltimore, Richmond, and Northern Virginia, targeting adults aged 23-55. The county also advertises in these markets, and more, as a wedding destination, and will be participating in a minimum of four wedding shows over the past six months. Aul stated that the organization has a goal of booking “$100,000 in revenue for the first three shows and $50,000 from the Baltimore show.”

Some other areas Aul touched on across both presentations are rebuilding the south end of the county, improving infrastructure, lodging, etc. and continuing to promote the county’s museums. Aul stated that Visit St. Mary’s will be putting a focus group together to help involve the community in its marketing campaigns and will be expanding its board of directors. 

Commissioner Todd Morgan [R-District 4] complimented Aul and the organization, stating, “what you’re doing reflects a vision to the future.” The commissioner expressed that the needs of millennials differ from his generation and that the county has to “change if we want to be successful in the future.”

For more information visit visitstmarysmd.com.

Contact Jerold Massie at staffwriter@thebaynet.com.