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Tourism up despite budget crunch
How did regional visitation go in the Fredericksburg area this past fiscal year?

Date published: 10/30/2008

BY BILL FREEHLING

Shrinking marketing budgets have challenged area tourism officials, but they remain optimistic that new projects and events will keep bringing visitors to the Fredericksburg region.

Public-sector tourism officials from Fredericksburg and Stafford and Spotsylvania counties delivered that message to members of the Fredericksburg Regional Hospitality Council at a meeting yesterday.

The group gathered at the Country Inn & Suites in Spotsylvania's Four-Mile Fork area. The council includes people involved in running hotels and other travel-related businesses.

Tourism officials said more visitors came to the region in fiscal year 2008 than 2007, partly thanks to the Marine Corps Half Marathon, the Force Protection Equipment Demonstration and the Chancellorsville battle re-enact- ment.

The Greater Fredericksburg Tourism Partnership's budget fell from $738,000 in fiscal 2007 to $550,000 in fiscal 2008, said Fredericksburg Tourism Manager Karen Hedelt. More cuts could lie ahead. Hedelt said tourism officials are using more electronic marketing, which is less expensive.

Officials were optimistic that the following factors could drive business to hotels and restaurants:

The Fredericksburg Regional Golf Cooperative, a partnership among area hotels and golf courses, attends trade shows to attract golfers. The group has seen increases in room nights booked and rounds played, said Stafford Tourism Manager M.C. Moncure.

This year about 5,000 people registered for the Marine Corps Half Marathon in May. Plans for next year call for about double that.

Hedelt said area hotels are getting calls from people visiting Washington for January's presidential inauguration. She said hotels closer to the city are charging higher rates and requiring multi-night minimum stays.

Reimbursement rates recently rose for people staying at hotels and eating in restaurants in Spotsylvania, Stafford and Fredericksburg while on federal business.

The upcoming openings of area businesses--including Wegmans, Kalahari Resorts and the downtown Courtyard by Marriott--should help draw people.

Bill Freehling: 540/374-5405
Email: bfreehling@freelancestar.com