2013-03-07 / Local & State

Gettysburg Aims For Economic Boost From 150th

By Amy Stansbury


GETTYSBURG, Pa. (AP) – Talk to any businessperson, resident, or government official in Gettysburg and they will all tell you the same thing - they need 2013 to be a big year.

“This is a big opportunity,” said Greg Ciminera, an event management consultant who spoke to a roomful of local restaurant owners at a meeting sponsored by the Gettysburg Convention & Visitors Bureau last week. “It's an opportunity to rediscover a population that hasn't visited in a while. It's an opportunity to secure the future, to reinforce your brand.”

2013 marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and the entire town is gearing up for all the re-enactments, special ceremonies, grand openings, events, and visitors that are expected to come along with it. Few are preparing more than the CVB, which has created a website, official logo, commemorative guide, and a series of organizational meetings for local businesses, all in anticipation of the commemoration.

At a meeting specifically designed for the food service industry on Tuesday, CVB President Norris Flowers stressed the importance preparing for the opportunity Gettysburg has been given.

Expectations for the 150th are high, Flowers said, telling the story of a woman he spoke with from Ohio who had already made plans to visit Gettysburg this summer.

“This lady said that her husband had been waiting 18 years to come to Gettysburg and experience that,” Flowers said. “Do you think her expectations are high?”

Expectations are high on a more global scale as well. The Associated Press already has committed to stationing journalists in Gettysburg for the full 10 days of events and several national media outlets have listed the town as a top destination to visit in 2013. USA TODAY named it one of its top five buzz-worthy travel sites on a list with Burma, Hawaii, Florida, and Ireland. Gettysburg also made it onto CNN’s shortlist alongside Scotland, Morocco, Slovakia, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Netherlands, and Colombia.

The CVB has translated this national attention into economic expectations for the region, predicting that 2013 could rake in $750 million in visitor spending and $135 million in tax revenues. This is compared to the $605 million the county earned in tourism revenue in 2011, the most recent year for which data in available.

This is great news for cash-strapped local governments that have been suffering in recent years, said officials from both Gettysburg and Cumberland Township who expressed in recent budget talks that they are anticipating a bump in revenues in 2013. The Gettysburg Borough cut a police department employee this year due to budget constraints and despite several rounds of budget tightening, Cumberland Township officials predict that the municipality will run into debt by 2014.

Local businesses are also feeling the pressure of the economic opportunity. “We are just trying to brainstorm and get a plan together that will serve our customers,” said Tammy Hughes, owner of The Avenue Restaurant on Steinwehr Avenue. “We have been in business since 1958 and it’s important that we continue that tradition.”

But none of these economic dreams will come to fruition without the right amount of planning, said Ciminera, who has helped to plan several large-scale entertainment events, including Super Bowl XVIII in Miami in 1984. He advised business owners in Gettysburg to know the schedule of events and to plan their employee schedules and business hours accordingly.

“ Know your guests,” Ciminera said, “and anticipate their needs, tailor your menu, and fine tune your service.”

He recommended customizing and streamlining restaurant menus during the 10-day busy stretch from June 28 to July 7 to ensure that the maximum number of guests are served. At the same time, he warned, remember to care for the guests and not to push them out the door.

He also suggested that restaurants create satellite serving stations around town with grab- and- go menu options and that they notify suppliers of extra orders early so that they never run out of product. Businesses also should consider using multiple cash registers and providing customers with multiple points of sale throughout the store, Ciminera said, so that they don't have to wait in long lines to make a purchase.

Everything should be designed to serve the customer and to make the customer happy, Ciminera said. “You really have a remarkable product here,” he said. “Put in the right light, it can really be special.”

The CVB is fighting hard to put Gettysburg in that perfect light with an advertising campaign and a series of extra measures designed to heighten the visitor experience in 2013. During the summer, the CVB will sponsor roving tour guides who will walk the streets of Gettysburg wearing bright red vests and answering any questions that visitors might have.

The CVB will also be sponsoring free online Adams County Experience Training beginning in March to teach employees of local businesses how to best provide information and assist guests.

The CVB will also be printing 75,000 free commemorative event guides in the spring that will provide visitors with more detailed information about all of the events taking place from June 28 to July 7. It will include details about extra places to park and trolley schedules and will even include a pull out map of the town and the battlefield.

“It will also serve as a souvenir,” said CVB Media Relations Manager Carl Whitehill. “It’s like if you go to a football game and get a program.”

The CVB is capitalizing on the souvenir business in other ways as well, allowing local businesses to use its official 150th Gettysburg logo for free and selecting a handful of vendors to produce 150th Gettysburg products. These items run the gamut of commemorative memorabilia from mugs to cutting boards, iPhone cases, golf balls, clothing, and flags.

Even the borough is trying to get in on the revenue stream. The council is working on plans to sell the borough's official flag and pin.

Whatever is being sold and whatever events are happening, the CVB just hopes that the commemoration is enjoyable for the county's 4 million visitors.

“ This is our chance,” Whitehill said. “We have to bring our ‘A’ game and we will benefit from this for years to come.”

If enough visitors come to Gettysburg and enjoy themselves, he said, they might be motivated to come back in the future. After the commemoration is over, the CVB will be refocusing its marketing work to try and entice tourists to return to Gettysburg in 2014, 2015, and into the future.

“We don’t want to return to normal after the 150th,” Whitehill said. “We want a new normal.”

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