Carroll County is learning to sell itself to more and more tourists.
"Look at your product and play it to the hilt," Mike Fish, Central Region consultant for the Small Business Development Center, said at a meeting of the Carroll County Tourism Association yesterday.
The numbers from the county Office of Tourism are encouraging.
More people have stopped at the Visitor Information Center in Westminster in the first six months of this year than for all of 1993 and 1994.
"Through May 1994, we had 190 visitors," said Sharon Kirk, who manages the center on East Main Street in Westminster. "Through May 1995, we have had 709 -- 74 percent of them from out of the county."
The number of visitors from Baltimore and its environs has increased 100 percent, and travelers to Carroll from the Washington area have increased by 209 percent, Ms. Kirk said.
"Everybody likes tourists," said Mr. Fish. "They bring in dollars and they don't pollute."
For about a year, the county Office of Tourism has targeted the Washington suburbs and has advertised in Recreation News, a magazine distributed to federal employees. The publication also offered free publicity for the county's Civil War Driving Tour, which recently won a national merit award.
"We have had a substantial number of calls from that area for tour books," said Barbara Beverungen, an administrative assistant at the tourism office.
In December, the office printed 5,000 of the driving tour brochures, which detail local sites of interest to Civil War historians, and distributed them at trade shows and state travel centers. Now the tour books are in their second printing.
"There is definitely an interest in local history, antiques and crafts," said Ms. Kirk.
Cindy Raub, co-owner of the Hickory Stick, a country-style knick-knack and furniture store that recently moved to the corner of Route 27 and Green Street, said many of her new customers are from the Washington area.
"They are all thrilled with the quaintness here," she said. "Let's make sure we keep it."
The key to tourist trade is to create destination spots and take advantage of the area's biggest draws, said Mr. Fish.
He listed the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster, the Union Mills Homestead and the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor as sites that breed familiarity among tourists and the most potential to generate business for association members.