Tourism is a big deal in Washington County – a $700-million-a-year endeavor.
That’s why Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency commissioned a Pittsburgh marketing consultant to gauge how safe consumers believe they will be while engaging in tourist activities countywide – during the pandemic and, perhaps, afterward.
The agency, a partner of Washington County Chamber of Commerce, reached out to CorCom Inc. to conduct research, which was outlined in a report titled “Reopening Washington County.” CorCom’s president and chief executive officer, Lloyd Corder, unveiled the study Friday during the chamber’s virtual Breakfast Briefing.
A total of 1,219 people were surveyed online from May 13-20, and the data were broken down into two categories: those living within 20 miles of central Washington County and those living outside that radius.
“Consumers are divided on how long it will take Washington County tourism to return, but many think it will be safe to restart some outside activities,” said Corder, a professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon University and part-time instructor at University of Pittsburgh.
Outside, indeed. The study showed 75% probably will visit a park, 74% will hike or walk, 63% will tour a farm and 48% will go fishing or boating.
The data also indicated respondents were essentially split down the middle on when the coronavirus will subside, with 46% speculating that will be the end of June. Asked whether they would feel at risk traveling, respondents were virtually split three ways: concerned, not concerned or neutral.
“People are concerned not only about contracting the virus and getting sick, but they may give it to someone else,” Corder said. “Going green (June 5) helps, but I don’t think it’s enough to motivate people specifically. Businesses have to convince people that they are safe.”
A large number, 64%, said seeing a safety certification posted at a business probably would convince them to patronize the facility.
“I realize there are legal and technical aspects, but I wanted to test this,” Corder said.
Festivals, a big attraction in the county, would draw a fair share of patrons, according to the study – if held in the fall.
The Meadows Racetrack & Casino and music venues did not fare well in the study, as fewer than one-third said they would visit. But 65% expressed interest in weekend getaway travel packages.
A number of popular events have been canceled, pools have been closed and sports are mostly on hold in Washington County. But tourism opportunities are still out there.