Sep. 24, 2013 9:49 PM
Written by Liz Holland
PRINCESS ANNE — A plan to market Princess Anne as a historical and cultural tourist destination is the assignment for three teams of University of Maryland Eastern Shore seniors who will compete during the next few months for a $2,500 cash prize.
The 12 students — divided into teams of four — are charged with developing a marketing strategy and “rebranding” for the town with the historic Washington Hotel as the anchor, Karl Binns, an assistant professor of hospitality management, told town officials at a meeting last week.
While the plans will focus on the 18th century hotel, they are also expected to incorporate the downtown business district and other Somerset County attractions.
“These will be ideas the county, the town and the Main Street Partnership can use,” he said.
Students will develop their plans after meeting with business owners and town officials, then present them to a panel of judges in December.
The plans must include an advertising campaign with a well-focused theme aimed at target markets, an analysis of motivational factors of target visitor markets and a financial plan covering a 36-month timeframe.
Binns has asked Somerset County Commissioners and Princess Anne Town Commissioners to help fund the cash prize.
Students in the class are part of the Hotel Restaurant Management program at UMES, which is known for planning and preparing meals for the gourmet lunch and dinner series, the UMES Dinner Theater and the school’s gala.
Binns said the marketing plan assignment will provide students with a different kind of experience.
“This is an opportunity to expand our brand and do something besides production,” he said.
Town officials are in the process of renovating the Washington Hotel with the hopes of turning it back into an anchor business for the downtown area, and are looking to the students for help, said Town Manager Brenda Benton.
“We’re looking for a real product we can use,” she said.
The town recently received a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to help pay for renovations at the hotel, and officials are expected to open bids for architectural and engineering drawings this week.
Once the design work is completed, the town will seek bids for construction, Benton said.
Last October, the town announced it had reached a deal with innkeeper Ian Fleming of the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford to operate the hotel and restaurant.
The town — which is considered the owner of the hotel — paid $308,000 for the building and used a $150,000 Community Legacy grant toward the purchase, with the remainder coming from Fleming and a group of investors as a loan to the town, she said.
The goal is to eventually turn over ownership to Fleming.
The building is in need of improvements, including sprinklers and handicapped accessibility, and it is expected to cost $1.5 million to renovate and furnish it in time for a reopening in 2014.
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