Officials want motor coach tours to return

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Officials want motor coach tours to return

CUMBERLAND — Officials from private, nonprofit and governmental agencies are continuing an effort to re-establish Allegany and Garrett County as well as the Potomac Highlands area of West Virginia as a popular destination for motor coach tourism.

Evan Slonaker, executive director of the Allegany County Historical Society, who helps to operate several historic sites including the Gordon-Roberts House at 218 Washington St., spoke about the changes that have occurred in motor coach tourism.

“We used to have (at the Gordon-Roberts House) three to four buses visit on a single day. Now we might get 10 to 15 all season,” said Slonaker.

Slonaker said a season is April to October.

Efforts are under way to bring back the once thriving bus tourism industry.

“We need to get the word out and let people know we are still here,”?said Vicki Koch, the owner of Westmar Tours.

Koch said the benefits to the local economy and the service it provides in promoting the attractions and the history are invaluable.

“There should be many motor coaches pulling into Cumberland. I want to bring that back,” said Koch, who enjoys focusing on the marketing aspect of the industry.

Koch said that the decrease in tourism that occurred following the 2001 terrorist attacks and increased family responsibilities led her to an eventual relocation to the gulf coast of Florida.

“I want to come back and help the area,” said Koch.

Koch helped to put together a meeting that was held  Oct. 3 at the Windsor Castle where several officials from across the region met to discuss the topic.

One of the people who attended the meeting was Kathy Condor, coordinator of professional development at Allegany College of Maryland.

“County tourism wants to rebuild this business. We have great venues and a rich history,” said Condor.

Condor has put together courses at ACM that train people in becoming tour guides.

“We have had two classes so far and are starting another class in November,” said Condor.

Koch said that it is important to put packages together that people are interested in.

The Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, the Potomac Eagle train in Romney, museums, golf, theater, dining, Heritage Days, and other special events and festivals are some of the destinations officials feel can be marketed for motor coach tours.

However, Koch realizes that it takes time and a combined effort.

State, local government agencies, nonprofits, private business and tourism officials must come together to make it happen, according to Koch.

“Look at what Elkins has done. They have got everyone working together. Now, they have created a mini-Branson there,” said Koch.

Koch hopes to have more meetings in the future to continue the effort.

 “For several years there was a strong coach business here. We’ve built the area into a good destination,” said Mayor Brian Grim.

Grim said that many organizations, particularly the museums, benefited from the influx of tourists.

“Any effort that can bring back those folks would be positive. I think once people come here they will come back,” said Grim.

“It’s a great chance to increase revenue for the county. It’s also an opportunity for people to get to know our rich heritage,” said Slonaker.

“I remember when there used to be 15 motor coaches lined up at the train station. We don’t have that. It’s more than just adding hotel/motel tax dollars, it promotes our area,” said Koch.

Greg Larry can be contacted at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .