A Dauphin County transportation company is betting on history with a summer shuttle run to Gettysburg that could serve as a template for the big recurring events that drive county tourism.
Londonderry Township-based Premiere #1 Limousine Service LLC is now taking orders for public tickets from the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg — a $33.50 package that includes a museum ticket — for the 10-day commemoration peak of the Battle of Gettysburg's 150th anniversary.
"This has never been done before," Jonathan Snavely, the company's business development manager, said about the transportation package, which has no financial guarantees of trip seats from any local governments or visitors bureaus.
It's definitely a risk, he said, but one that could pay off as local residents and visitors look for alternatives to avoid traffic congestion in and out of Gettysburg.
The period from June 28 to July 7 is expected to draw 200,000 people to the Gettysburg area — about 5 percent of this year's projected visitation, according to the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Premiere #1 already has established partnerships with 10 county hotels — the goal is 20 — to run separate shuttles to and from Gettysburg for that heavy travel season, Snavely said.
"If we need more outside of that (10-day period), we'll expand (the shuttle service)," he said.
Premiere is hoping a couple hundred people will take advantage of the special public service.
A shuttle service that can make the roughly 85-mile roundtrip with relative ease would not only bring visitors back to this region, it would create other hotel transportation packages to venues such as the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex and Expo Center for multiple-day events, Snavely said.
"It will be a good test," he said. "You either take a risk or get left behind."
Not everyone shares Premiere's optimism about getting in and out of Gettysburg.
John Bailey, president of York-based Bailey Coach Inc., said he applauds Premiere for stepping up and taking the lead on the hotel and public ticket trips from Dauphin County.
However, he continues to have some concerns about a coordinated municipal effort to manage what could become gridlock around Gettysburg.
"It's almost like a mini-Olympics," said Bailey, who recently began having discussions with the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau about transportation to Gettysburg for county hotel patrons.
Bailey said he is hopeful a mass transit plan that specifies bus routes, connections to local transportation and satellite parking locations will be ironed out.
"They are going to have to keep traffic moving. We can't transport people if there is gridlock on the roads. People won't get to events, and they won't be happy," he said. "You only have one opportunity to make a first impression with people."
A final plan to address transportation concerns is in the works, said Carl Whitehill, a spokesman for the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Shuttles coming in from outside would be encouraged to link up with satellite parking areas," he said, though he noted those locations have yet to be fleshed out.
There will be expanded trolley hours and additional vehicles, Whitehill said.
"Is there going to be traffic during those 10 days? Absolutely," he said. "We have our sights set on mitigating it as much as possible."
A traffic plan should be completed this spring, he said.
Affecting our region
With Adams County's economic impact projected at $750 million this year — Gettysburg's historic year could mean more than $1 billion for the region in 2013 — Whitehill said outside shuttle services are certainly encouraged to cut down on individual vehicles.
So far, area visitors bureaus are counting on hotels to address transportation packages.
"If hotels have the ability to offer transportation, that would be great," said Kristen Rowe, a spokeswoman for the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau.
Like other counties in the surrounding area, Cumberland County is holding events around the Civil War 150.
Hoteliers are planning and already are starting to see an influx of reservations for the summer peak, Rowe said.
"We'll get a bit of an uptick this year," said Joel Cliff, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lancaster County.
Representatives for each of the bureaus in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York counties said they are counting on their annual crowds, plus the Gettysburg visitors who want to see everything the area has to offer.
"Folks can take in a lot of different experiences in a small geographic area," Cliff said.
One such attraction could be Steam Into History Inc.'s Civil War-era train rides in southern York County, said Allison Freeman, a spokeswoman for the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"We want to create a new normal here," Whitehill said of annual visitation, which has grown during the four-year Civil War 150. "We want to reach a whole new audience."
The focus for Gettysburg — not unlike many other parts of the region — is on future years and creating a sustainable destination for travelers.
The peak of the Gettysburg 150th commemoration will run June 28 to July 7.
Hoteliers in surrounding counties already are seeing increased reservations for that period, according to regional visitors bureaus.
The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau was the only local agency to provide projected hotel increases.
The bureau uses a range of about $310 to $360 as the average daily expenditure for a family, spokesman Rick Dunlap said. That includes the average room night cost of $100 to $150, which puts projected economic impact in the range of $620 to $720 per family.
If the county garners 800 to 1,200 additional room nights, the added economic impact of that peak could be $496,000 to $864,000, according to Business Journal estimates.
The average stay during that 10-day period is five days, said Carl Whitehill, a spokesman for the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"Everyone is going to get a piece," Dunlap said of the economic impact from Gettysburg and local Civil War events.
in DC room nights
DC hotel rooms
in peak season
800 to 1,200
$100 to $150
$80,000 to $180,000
Source: Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau
On average, Adams County sees about 3 million visitors annually, said Carl Whitehill, a spokesman for the Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg is expected to add another 1 million visitors.
Visitor spending could be about $150 million higher this year compared with 2011, Whitehill said. The bureau does not yet have 2012 numbers.
Adams County and its neighbors could see higher levels of visitation during the remaining two years of the Civil War 150 commemoration, which runs through 2015.
Economic impact 2010: $555 million
Economic impact 2011: $605 million
2013 projected economic impact: $750 million
Visitors in 2011: 3.17 million
2013 projected visitors: 4 million
Civil War 150 2011-15 economic impact: $2.5 billion
Source: Gettysburg Convention and Visitors Bureau