Manassas celebrates tourism week

Manassas National Battlefield Park and Historic Occoquan were only a few of the stops made by area travel writers Monday as they visited some of Prince William County’s most popular tourist attractions as part of National Tourism Week.

The media tour was set up by the Prince William County/Manassas Convention and Visitors Bureau and included Stonewall Golf Course, Center for the Arts (former Hopkin’s Candy Factory), Old Town Manassas and Leesylvania State Park.

Andrew R. Campanella, media relations manager for the bureau, said the tour was one of many activities planned for the week “to show appreciation to current visitors, increase local interest in travel and tourism promotion and generate additional tourist visitation and spending.”

He said travelers spent an estimated $236 million in direct expenditures in Prince William County and Manassas in 2002 with more than $49 million going for rooms at local motels and hotels.

“National Tourism Week is a special time to say a ‘thank you’ to our visitors in anticipation that they’ll return again,” said Tabatha Mullins, executive director of the bureau. “It is also a time that we devote to working with the local community to reinforce the importance of tourism to the region’s economy.”

The media tour began at the battlefield where they viewed the new Hollywood-produced film “Manassas: End of Innocence,” which was narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Richard Dreyfuss.

Ranger Becky Cumins then took the group on a tour of the battlefield, site of the First and Second Battles of Manassas.

Cumins said like many tourism attractions, a greater effort is being made to attract local residents rather than those coming from a distance.

“We issue a family pass for $20 a year and it is becoming very popular, particularly with runners and joggers who come nearly every day,” she said.

She said more school groups are visiting and public tours are available throughout the day. A special Memorial Day Service on May 26 will honor America’s veterans, including a wreath laying program, speeches and musket firings.

Anniversary program for the First and Second Battles of Manassas are planned for July 19-20 and Aug. 29-31 with demonstrations by recreated Civil War military units.

At the Center for the Arts, Sally Lay, executive director, told the gathering that the building was built in 1908 and served as a candy factory for many years before turning to other uses through the years.

“Thanks to the efforts of many people, this building now houses an art gallery, meeting space and arts-related work and classrooms areas,” said Lay.

According to Campanella, the week’s celebration began last Saturday morning with free coffee and doughnuts for all visitors at the Prince William County Tourist Information in Occoquan, the historic Manassas Visitors Center in Old Town Manassas and the Interstate 66 Welcome Center.

The community is invited to attend a book signing by local travel author Sharon Cavileer on Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. at Borders Books and Music in Woodbridge. Cavileer will sign her book “Virginia Curiosities,” which details distinct and quirky sites in the state.

In a joint effort with the bureau, the Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger will insert the first ever “Family Summer Activities Guide and Family Reunion Planner” on Thursday, promoting family reunion planning and travel in the region.

The bureau will honor local tourism industry volunteers on Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Best Western Battlefield Inn in Manassas.

Keynote speaker Rita D. McClenny of the Virginia Tourism Corporation will discuss state efforts to increase tourism and Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chairman Sean T. Connaughton, R-at large, will address the state of tourism in the region.

The Travel Industry Association of America estimates that tourists spend $584 billion a year in the United States and the tourism industry employs 18 million people.