The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce won two awards at the 37th Annual Tourism and Travel Summit presented by the Maryland Tourism Coalition in College Park, Maryland last week. Competing against nominees from other counties in the state, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce won the Best Product or Event award (Small Category) for their Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area 5th Anniversary Celebration and the Best Digital Campaign for their “Garrett County 360° Virtual Reality Experience”.

The Best Product or Event award (Small Category) is given to an event, tour, destination, program or experience that is innovative, a model for others and a successful Maryland tourism product with a budget of less than $5,000.  The Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area (MMGTW), a program of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, celebrated its 5th Anniversary of becoming a certified Maryland Heritage Area in November 2016. The celebration included the unveiling of a  new Visitors Center Heritage Photo Display, guest speakers and citations/proclamations from U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski, U.S. Representative John Delaney, MD Senator George Edwards, MD Delegate Wendell Beitzel, and the Garrett County Commissioners.  MMGTW is one of 13 state certified Heritage Areas and has worked with partners throughout the county, helping to obtain grants to complete numerous projects, securing nearly $900,000 in funding over the past five years.

“We are so honored to have received the Best Small Event award from the Maryland Tourism Coalition for our Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area’s 5 Year Anniversary Celebration,” said Jen Durben, Heritage Area & Groups Director at the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. “This award is shared with our community and the partnering organizations that have made and will continue to make the heritage area program a success.”

The Best Digital Campaign award is given to an entity who integrates digital media in a creative and unique way. The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce launched a 360° virtual reality experience of Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County on their website, visitdeepcreek.com, in September 2017. The experience, a result of the Chamber’s partnership with virtual reality company, YouVisit, includes 360° video and photos shot at 22 locations throughout Garrett County. Many of the locations include “living video scenes” where people come to life – either participating in the activity (golfing, whitewater rafting, kayaking) or speaking directly to the visitor telling them about the location they are viewing. Not only is the experience available for anyone who visits the Chamber’s website, visitdeepcreek.com, via desktop or mobile devices, the experience is compatible with virtual reality headsets which the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce will be taking to travel and consumer shows so prospective visitors can view the beauty and activities of the area.

“We are honored to accept the Best Digital Campaign award for our new 360° Garrett County virtual reality experience,” said Sarah Duck, Director of Tourism & Marketing at the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. “Our 360° experience allows us to showcase all that Garrett County and the Deep Creek Lake area have to offer to our visitors in an innovative and unique way and to be recognized by our tourism industry peers with this award is particularly gratifying.”

For more information about the Maryland Tourism Coalition and the annual Maryland Tourism & Travel Summit, visit mdtourism.org. For more information on the Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area, please visitwww.garrettheritage.com.  For more information about the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce, please call 301.387.4386 or log onto www.visitdeepcreek.com.

The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce is the largest professional business association in the region with 600 members representing every industry in the community.  The mission of the Chamber is to organize, support and represent Garrett County’s business community in advancing common interests and additionally to promote Garrett County’s hospitality and recreation industry by attracting visitors to the county through comprehensive marketing.