- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 14, 2003

ANNAPOLIS (AP) - Tourism dropped 34 percent in October as the Washington area sniper shootings kept visitors away, state economic development officials said.

Despite the disastrous October, the number of tourists that traveled in Maryland last year was down only 1.7 percent from the year before.

About 19.1 million tourists traveled in Maryland last year, down from 19.4 million in 2001, according to figures released Tuesday by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development.

Tourism was also off in November, down 14 percent from 2001, but rebounded after the arrests of the sniper suspects, said Robert E. Carter, assistant secretary for the state’s Tourism, Film and the Arts office.

“We definitely caught a little bit of a bite from the D.C. sniper,” Mr. Carter said. “We have rebounded strongly from that.”

That wasn’t the only bad news, however.

Average household trip spending fell to $334 last year, compared with $337 in 2001. The average number of nights tourists spent in Maryland, meanwhile, rose to 2.8 for the year, up from 2.4 in 2001.

“I fully expect our numbers to pan out steady and maybe even slightly up this year … if gas prices continue to fall,” said Mr. Carter, a member of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s transition team.

Tourism brought in $8.5 billion in revenue in 2001. A 2002 revenue figure was not available.

Family was a strong draw for most visitors.

Forty-five percent of visitors last year came to visit friends or relatives; 77 percent drove in a car or truck, and 36 percent spent the night in a hotel, motel or bed and breakfast, according to the state figures.

Twenty-seven percent said shopping was their top activity, followed by 16 percent who said they visited the beach.

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