Tourism Takes Patriotic Turn; Americans Are Visiting Historic Sites in Places Other Than the Nation's Capital. (History)

By De Marco, Donna | Insight on the News, September 9, 2002 | Go to article overview

Tourism Takes Patriotic Turn; Americans Are Visiting Historic Sites in Places Other Than the Nation's Capital. (History)


De Marco, Donna, Insight on the News


Americans are going back to their roots with trips to patriotic and historic sites this summer. And they are traveling farther away from Washington to reconnect with the past.

Regional tourist destinations that highlight U.S. history are holding their own this summer despite the shaky economy, terrorism fears and the extremely hot weather.

"People have wanted to reconnect to America and get away from the hustle and bustle of big-city life," says Tim Andrews, director of public relations for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. "Our mission is to help the future learn from the past, and at no point has that message been more relevant than it is today."

Colonial Williamsburg, Va., a 150-mile drive from Washington, has as many visitors as it did a year ago. That's good news for the restored 18th-century town, since other summer destinations are having trouble attracting crowds.

"We're holding our own, particularly compared to our friends and colleagues in the travel industry," Andrews says. "But summer has been slower than we expected."

Andrews says Williamsburg's location--close enough to drive to but far enough away from Washington--has been a positive draw. Williamsburg had one of its best spring seasons in history, particularly with school groups, he adds.

Colonial Williamsburg, which has a 300-acre historic area, five hotels, three golf courses and five museums, has about 900,000 visitors annually.

Fort McHenry in Baltimore has had a 6.3 percent increase in attendance so far this year. That's no surprise considering the home of the Star Spangled Banner, which attracts 700,000 visitors annually, has an increase in attendance of about 10 percent each year, Superintendent Laura Joss says. "We're on track," she says.

After Sept. 11 more school groups visited Fort McHenry instead of Washington, Joss says. In addition, visitors say they are coming in the name of patriotism. "Visitors come to look at the flag and experience solace and quiet at Fort McHenry," Joss says.

Washington was hit hard after the terrorist attacks as leisure travel dropped and school groups--the bread and butter for tourist attractions during the spring--canceled their trips.

The number of visitors to the 16 Smithsonian Institution museums in Washington has dropped 31 percent for the first half of 2002 from a year ago. Revenue from the museum stores has decreased by 19 percent.

Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, is feeling the same effects as visitation continues to be down 20 to 25 percent. …

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