One-year-old Max Baughman looks on as Heather Stock, a guide with Wolfgang Candy talks about the company during a family tour Thursday. The Niceville,
One-year-old Max Baughman looks on as Heather Stock, a guide with Wolfgang Candy talks about the company during a family tour Thursday. The Niceville, Fla., family was visiting family locally. On Thursday they first stopped at a tour at Snyder's of Hanover, then at Utz Quality Foods before ending their day at Wolfgang. All of the tours are free. A study released Thursday morning said factory tours top the list for York County tourism. (DAILY RECORD / SUNDAY NEWS -- JASON PLOTKIN )

With York County's free factory tours as a draw, visitors annually pump about $1.3 billion into the local economy.

Yet, according to a recent survey, guests in the county don't know where to find the best shopping and restaurants.

Judy Randall, president of North Carolina-based Randall Travel Marketing, was at the Yorktowne Hotel in York on Thursday to announce those and more statistics during the York County Convention & Visitors Bureau's Annual Tourism Stakeholder meeting.

About 100 people were at the event.

The county visitors bureau contracted Randall to oversee the York County Visitor Research and Strategic Recommendations Study.

The study covered visitor activity, spending patterns and opportunities for growth and was completed during October and November.

According to Randall's report, York County visitors gave high marks for factory tours, including Harley-Davidson and Wolfgang Candy, like the local scenery and say people are friendly.

However, the "Great Recession" is expected to soon drag down tourism in the county, Randall said.

"It really has been bad," she said and added that business travel for 2010 is expected to be down across the country. "We're going to hit bottom again."

But don't panic, Randall said - the economy is expected to bounce back.

Additionally, York County benefits from a great location that's convenient for travelers, and most visitors to York County are repeat visitors, Randall's study said.

The county is also "in great shape" in terms of accessible public transportation, she said.

"We do pay attention to those numbers," Mike Schmid, a Wolfgang managing partner in marketing, said of the survey results. The high ratings Wolfgang got on the survey result from a desire to please the customer, he said.

"I think it's a testament to our staff . . . allowing people to enjoy the Wolfgang experience," he said. "I think York County has done a very good job at marketing itself."

Last week, Roger Brooks, a development consultant, said York could one day brand itself "America's industrial art and design capital."

"From Harley-Davidson to York Wallcoverings, York has a history steeped in the applied arts," Brooks said.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE STUDY

Dislikes: traffic and restaurant selection

Likes: The Harley-Davidson factory tour got high ratings, as did tours of Snyder's of Hanover, Utz Quality Foods and Wolfgang Candy.

What does the study recommend?

  • The visitors bureau needs to enhance efforts to extend visitor stays and increase spending.

  • Create a Sport York Advisory Committee

  • Develop an annual marketing plan and conduct pre- and post-event research.

  • Sales and recruiting strategies should focus on state and regional events.

  • The bureau needs to hire a full-time sports coordinator.

    Recession will hurt next year:

  • January tourism numbers will drop in 2010

  • Businesses will likely restrict travel even more

    To learn more, visit www.yorkpa.org/plan.

    Also of interest

    · York County, Pa., made big, heavy things - and was immensely proud of it.