Melchiorri
Melchiorri

The York County Convention & Visitors Bureau might be in the market for a new slogan.

Twenty years ago, when York County branded itself as the factory tour capital of the world, 11 manufacturers opened their doors for visitors hoping to get an up-close look at how their products were made.

Last year, 23 manufacturers served as stops during the county's Made in America Tours, a four-day event held in June.

"Pretty soon we're going to have more than 50 manufacturers on the tour, and we're going to have to rebrand ourselves as the factory capital of the universe," said Anne Druck, president of the bureau.

During the factory tours and other events, visitors spend $850 million a year in York

County, she said.

"We're doing pretty well, but we always want to do better," Druck said.

Overnight visitors: One way the county can get a bigger slice of the economic pie is to attract more overnight visitors, she said.

More than 1 million tourists book 688,000 rooms a year in York County a year, according to CVB statistics.

"Overnight visitors spend three times as much as those on a day trip," Druck said.

Hosting sports events at the York County Expo Center, Memorial Park, Graham Aquatic Center, Sovereign Bank Stadium and Heritage Hills has helped attract new visitors in recent years, she said.

Other events that draw tourists and help businesses are the Mason-Dixon Wine Trail and the Susquehanna Ale Trail.

"After eating all the salty snacks on the factory tours, the visitors get so dry they need liquid," Druck said jokingly.

And Carl Helrich couldn't be happier about that.

As owner of Allegro Vineyards & Winery in Brogue, he has watched his foot traffic increase since being a destination on the wine trail.

Before participating, he'd typically have 30 customers walk through the door during the month of March. After becoming a stop on the trail, 2,500 visitors now stop in during that first month of spring, Helrich said.

"That's the power of partnership," Druck said.

An upcoming chal lenge: If county tourism continues to grow, it might have to rely on those partnerships because it won't get much help from the state; next year, the commonwealth will spend $37 million less than it normally does to promote tourism, she said.

Instead of the $40 million Pennsylvania typically spends to promote the tourism industry, the state will spend $3 million as Gov. Tom Corbett's budget cuts spending.

However, a few things are working in the county's favor. Two-thirds of all guests are repeat visitors. The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg will attract more tourists to the area next year. And the hospitality management major is growing at York College, which will supply the region with a trained workforce.

To speak about the hospitality industry, the CVB welcomed two hotel leaders to an event Wednesday morning.

Guests: Dan Johnson, general manager of the Holiday Inn in West Manchester Township, interviewed Anthony Melchiorri, host of the Travel Channel's "Hotel Impossible."

When he was 19 years old, Dan Johnson served as one of the youngest general managers in the industry while serving at a hotel in Gettysburg, and he's known for taking on underperforming hotels and making them commendable within six months, said John Hughes, director of the hospitality management program at York College.

Before having his own TV show, Melchiorri worked as general manager of The Algonquin Hotel and served as director of operations for The Plaza Hotel -- two famous New York City landmarks.

Melchiorri said there's one thing every hotel manager in York County can do to improve service and business, regardless of the hotel's size, budget or star rating.

"Have a cup of coffee with Eric Long, (general manager) at the Waldorf Astoria," he said.

Long is the epitome of general managers, who knows each of the famous New York hotel's 2,000 employees, knows every shift and what customers want, Melchiorri said.

"It's about giving guests what they want from the second they pack their bags," he said.

-- Reach Candy Wood all at cwoodall@yorkdispatch.com.