LEONARDTOWN, Md. (Feb. 3, 2016)—St. Mary’s County boasts two new tourism assets: the newly enhanced Patuxent River Naval Air Museum complex; and the county’s latest state park at Newtowne Neck. Both will bring benefits to surrounding businesses, and have the potential to attract new markets and leverage future growth—all good things as we put together the pieces of a tourism and hospitality master plan for St. Mary’s County.
Set to open this spring in Lexington Park, the “new” Patuxent River Naval Air Museum and Visitor Center, with its impressive new exhibit hall, new displays, and hands-on activities, is designed to have broad visitor appeal. The museum’s inspiring story of those who work on the cutting edge of technology to safeguard our nation, fits nicely with the increasing interest in STEM education in our schools. This should make the museum an appealing destination for families.
The museum also has potential to attract motorcoach tours and military reunion groups. Families, motorcoaches and reunion groups: these are all market sectors that favor stays in quality mid-market brand hotels. This is good news for the many along Route 235. These hotels are heavily reliant on Monday through Thursday baserelated business travel, but over-reliance on base travel can prove risky, as became evident a few years ago when federal travel cutbacks and furloughs resulted in drops in room occupancy. Groups especially, provide communities with good economic returns. A motorcoach group staying two nights is calculated to spend over $9,000 in the locale visited. Military reunion groups also spend big in communities. In addition to money spent on lodging and meals, each reunion-goer spends an additional $100 per day in the reunion community. The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum has identified a target reunion market of more than 100 squadrons and military societies with ties to Pax River.
Newtowne Neck, Maryland’s newest state park, strengthens Leonardtown’s destination appeal. The town, with its central location, it’s developing waterfront, and its emerging identity as an arts community since designation as a State Arts and Entertainment District in 2013, make it key to the County’s growth as a travel destination. Now, with a grand state park located just minutes from the town and featuring nearly 800 acres of Potomac shoreline, woodlands and panoramic landscapes, the area offers even more to explore. The 2010 Maryland State Parks Economic Impact and Visitor Study states that 70 percent of spending and employment benefits derived from state parks are concentrated within a 20-minute drive of each park and within its local, “gateway community.” Combine paddling, hiking, cycling and birding at Newtowne Neck, with shopping, dining and winery visits in Leonardtown, and one has the makings for great weekend getaways to entice a well-off D.C. market.
Sports complexes? Conference centers? Resort hotels? Certainly to be considered. All require careful study in terms of zoning, workforce availability, sustainability, cost and community receptivity. But here are two examples of leveraging new opportunities with existing assets. From the Seventh to South County, these sorts of considerations will also be important to developing a great tourism and hospitality master plan that fits St. Mary’s County.
Information about the St. Mary’s County Tourism and Hospitality Master Plan is posted on the County’s Web site. To find out more about the process, sign-up for updates, or get involved, visit
stmarysmd.com/ded/THMP.asp. To learn more about all there is to see and do in St. Mary’s County right now, visit the Travel & Tourism Web site at