1.6 Analysis of Crisfield’s Current Tourism Activity

This section is one of the topics that I wanted to do more work on before releasing this report to the public.  In the early stages of this project, a few years ago, I reached out to various groups and individuals inquiring about tourism data, but the information I’ve been able to collect is quite limited.  This is partly due to me not following up, but it’s also because the data was not available. 

Below is a graph showing some of the primary existing tourism categories and the estimated amount of traffic that each produces.  Some will be more accurate than others, but I believe I’ve been fairly liberal with all of the estimates.  The row of numbers on the left denote the ‘traffic-units,’ which is every person – visitor or local – engaged in a tourism activity. 

Summary of Existing Tourism Categories:  

Picture from a National Hard Crab Derby, one of Crisfield’s largest annual events.

➢ Events:  For many years Crisfield has focused heavily on events to produce tourism.  However, with the majority of the existing events, there has been little economic traffic beyond the event itself.  Most people come for events, attend the function and leave immediately after.  Some do stay, which does help hotels and eateries, but events are usually held on the weekends, and businesses need more than one or two days of business per week. 

Primary Type of Traffic: Varied.  The highest percentage being adults.

Estimated Amount of Annual Traffic Units: 21,100  

Notes: Event traffic should serve as a supplementary type of tourism. I have information on how to expand the economic impact of event traffic that is not included in this report.    

➢ Camping:  It’s likely that the area’s current largest tourist attraction is Janes Island State Park.  Thousands of people visit and camp at the park annually and it’s filled to capacity most weekends during the summer.  The problem is that only a small percentage of these tourists come into town, and even less will spend money here, and most that do shop, go to Food Lion and the profits on those sales leave Crisfield, never to return.  

Primary Type of Traffic: Varied.  Families with children and retirees.

Estimated Amount of Annual Traffic Units: 27,300

My kids eating s’mores on a Camping Trip several years ago.

Notes: Camping is a type of ‘niche tourism.’  This means it targets a particular type of traffic who have a specific interest, therefore, this should serve as a supplementary type of tourism.  I have information on how to expand the economic impact of camping traffic that is not included in this report.    

  ➢ Marina:  Somers Cove is considered by many to be one of the nicest ports on the entire east coast of America.  Boating is niche tourism and requires unique marketing, much of which is being carried out by the staff of Somers Cove Marina.

Primary Type of Traffic: Adults.    

Estimated Amount of Annual Traffic Units: 4,500

➢Fishing:  This has extraordinary potential for producing a significant amount of traffic, though it is currently being underutilized.  One reason for this is the area’s largest boat launching facilities is located on Jersey Island, and like events, most come to fish and leave immediately after.  Even though fishing is only active at specific times throughout the year, it could still be developed into a supplementary type of tourism by directing traffic flow, holding multiple large-scale tournaments and other efforts. 

A striped bass (rockfish), caught in local waters.

Primary Type of Traffic: Varied, Primarily Men.

Estimated Amount of Annual Traffic Units: 5,600

Notes: I have information on how to expand the economic impact of fishing traffic that is not included in this report.    

➢Hunting:  It’s likely this is the least recognized source of traffic in the area, though hundreds of hunters – some of whom travel hundreds of miles – come to the area each season.  Like fishing, hunting is only active at specific times throughout the year, but it could still be developed into a supplementary type of tourism through directing traffic flow, holding competitions and other efforts.  

Primary Type of Traffic: Adult men.

Estimated Amount of Traffic Units: 5,200

Notes:  I have information on how to expand the economic impact of hunting traffic that is not included in this report.    

A hunter & his prize.

➢Arts & Other:  I’ve given moderate attention to the creation and evolution of Crisfield’s A&E District, and, I’ve seen these implemented in other cities as well.  The achievements and momentum generated thus far have been substantial.  

One concern that I do have, and is something I’ve seen in other cities, and Crisfield as well, is what I call, ‘grant-hunters.’  These are people that support a cause or agenda just to obtain grant-money.  As grants are awarded to fund the A&E District, some will suddenly become ‘artists’ to get grant money.  People who own homes and commercial buildings within the A&E District will apply for grants under the premise that they will open a gallery or studio on their property.  

As with many other grant-funded projects, once the money stops the interest in that project does as well.  I’m not implying that this is currently happening, it’s just something that needs awareness.           

The potential motives of personal financial gain notwithstanding, there is a possibility for the growth of art-based tourism, though it’s also a niche type tourism.  The ‘entertainment’ aspect encompasses a wide-range of tourism interests, though to my knowledge, these are not currently being pursued aggressively.    

Primary Type of Traffic: Varied.  The current majority being adult men & women.

Estimated Amount of Traffic Units: 4,200

➢Leisure:  This type of tourism entails a wide variety of interests and activities, and is practically a part of every type of tourism there is.  I know many who come to Crisfield for no other reason than to have a relaxing vacation.  Some come to visit family, sight-seeing or to eat at a restaurant.  Currently, these types of tourists are often the most dissatisfied due to the lack of existing services and activities. 

Primary Type of Traffic: Varied.

Estimated Amount of Traffic Units: 4,900

Notes: I have information on how to expand the economic impact of leisure tourism traffic that is not included in this report.    

➢Heritage & Culture:  The Crisfield Heritage Foundation is the area’s primary outlet for this type of traffic.  They operate mainly out of the Tawes Museum, but to be honest, before I started collecting tourism based data in 2013, I had never entered the Tawes Museum.  I’ve also questioned countless locals, and tourists as well, on if they’ve ever visited the museum and the number who answer in the affirmative is always very low.  

In 2016 and 2017 I worked very closely with the Crisfield Heritage Foundation (CHF), so I understand their operating procedures.  Basically, the CHF is led by volunteers, many of whom have recently moved to the area so their knowledge of our heritage and culture is extremely limited.  During that time I also noticed that some of the leadership desired to aggressively expand the efforts of the CHF, but others opposed this because the CHF is dependent on volunteers.

Primary Type of Traffic: Varied.

Estimated Amount of Traffic Units: 4,600

Notes:  From my research I’ve conducted, Crisfield’s history, heritage and culture are Crisfield’s most valuable assets pertaining to tourism.  This will be covered again in further sections. 

General Notes on Existing Tourism Traffic:  

Again, the numbers above are only estimates, and I’ve attempted to be liberal, with the total number being 73,200.  Though I hope it illustrates the importance of ascertaining the types and amounts of existing traffic, when the traffic is coming and the types of people who constitute each kind of traffic.  A more thorough study should be done, and then conduct research to determine what each type of traffic spends their money on when they visit.

I’ll use deer hunters as an example.  Rifle season opens in late fall and hundreds of adult white males travel to the area from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Baltimore, etc.  What does this type of traffic spend money on?  The list is extensive, but I’ll use one that I feel will explain my point.  Hunters buy camouflage gear.  It’s cooler when they’re visiting, so hooded sweatshirts – especially those with unique designs – will be in demand.

Most hunters go in the woods before sunrise.  Take a break late morning, go back in the woods before dusk and then socialize with their group after dark.  This tells us that the peak hours for economic activity with hunters would be from 10am-3pm.

With this information, a group that is working to increase economic development  would create a document explaining the projected amount of traffic, when the traffic is coming to town, compile a list of all of the types of merchandise/services/etc., that is of interest to hunters, the peak shopping hours, etc.

A rep from this economic development group would share the above information with local businesses and inquire if they are interested in offering a particular item.  Additionally, the economic rep could have already acquired wholesale prices, along with suggested retail prices to show the business-owner the potential profit margins and sales revenue.

So, say that the business-owner wants to sell the hooded sweatshirts.  The rep would inform them that a typical sweatshirt can be purchased at Walmart, so a unique design needs to be printed on the sweatshirt.  The rep would have a list of suppliers who offer both graphic-design and screen-printing.  Moreover, the rep would stress that the reason the economic development group is assisting businesses is to increase overall economic activity, and it’s of utmost importance to include the name of Crisfield within the design.  By doing so, the merchandise will have dual-purpose; it will generate commerce and be an advertisement for Crisfield as well when the apparel is worn back in NJ, PA, etc.  Once it’s determined which businesses are participating, and what each is offering, the next step is to inform every hunter of what Crisfield has to offer.

The same thing can be done for all traffic-types throughout the year.  When the economic activity reaches a substantial level, it will residually facilitate the creation of other industries as well.  Again, using sweatshirts and clothing apparel as an example, once a level of sales reaches a sufficient level, a local screen-printing business can be started.  This would produce local jobs for printing operators, graphic artists, etc.

This is the way it was done in Crisfield back in the old-days, and should be done in the future as well.  However, everything must start with collecting data and information on the traffic.