- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Unseasonably cool and wet weather this summer altered some folks' daily recreation plans, but early indicators suggest hotel and store cash registers didn't get much rest.
"What I'm hearing is that it's better than last year," said Brian Ullmann, director of marketing and communications for the Washington, D.C., Convention and Visitor's Association.
But tourism in the District where museums and historic sites are a great part of the draw may have been more immune to the effects of chill and dampness than in neighboring Maryland and Virginia.
Figures aren't yet available for July and August, but tourism officials said they believe a strong economy and heavy reliance on advance reservations will enable vacation-dependent businesses in the mid-Atlantic to hold their own.
The summer's record-setting cool temperatures and 30 percent greater than average rainfall haven't been enough to make most travelers give up deposits for weeklong reservations, which increasingly are the norm at resorts.
Advance reservation totals at Ocean City hotels have remained comparable with "banner" levels experienced during last year's drought, said Donna Abbott, spokeswoman for the Ocean City Department of Tourism.
But travelers considering day and weekend trips to destinations such as Ocean City or George Washington's home at Mount Vernon haven't been as easy to hook and land.
"The biggest change we have seen has been [lower participation] in our gardening days program" which mainly draws local visitors, said Jennnie Saxon, marketing manager for Mount Vernon.
A walkup waiting list of 40 to 50 would-be guests has been typical at one popular Ocean City Hotel but this year that list often was no larger than 10.
"July was a struggle," said Jim Quick, human resources manager at the Dunes Manor Hotel. " … sometimes it was midnight before we'd put the 'no vacancy' sign up."
Visitors make Ocean City the second-most-populous municipality in Maryland during the summer, but gray skies and scattered showers got the seaside city's third to the last major tourist weekend off to a slow start.
When the sun first peeked through the clouds at 5:30 p.m. Friday, traffic was still light.
Folks strolling the boardwalk in T-shirts or Windbreakers outnumbered bathers and beach umbrellas. And nothing outshone the densely packed green grass growing on a patch of land between the sand and the Sahara Motel.
While bright, clear days like the Saturday and Sunday that followed offset overall losses, "Seattle-like" conditions have hurt some businesses such as bicycle rentals and shifted others.
Street-side (and under-roof) pizza and sandwich shops appear to have prospered while al fresco venues such as pool- or beach-side cafes and bars have had many "wipeout" days.
Overall, "restaurants have done very well when it rains a little, they love it," Ms. Abbott said.
With forecasts calling for continued wetter and cooler than normal conditions through September, the outlook may change little for resort businesses this summer.
"We are probably going to see some softness at the beach," said Maryland Office of Tourism director George E. Williams, adding that the overall outlook remains positive for the year with hotel occupancy up about 4 percent and increased traffic at state welcome centers..
Virginia Tourism Corporation spokesman Martha Steger said her organization does not have enough information to know if weather has hurt vacation business in the state.

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