Civil War Anniversary Sparks Consumer Interest


// (c) Tauck 2011

Can the 150th anniversary of the Civil War (1861-65) open up new marketing opportunities for travel agents and suppliers? That may just be the case, as the White House, the National Park Service and a host of state and local visitors and convention bureaus lend their weight to the Sesquicentennial celebration.

“The challenge for agents is going to be generating business and commissions off of that interest, as many people may opt to organize their own independent travel to Civil War-related sites,” said Tom Armstrong, tour operator Tauck’s vice president, told “There is strong public interest in the Civil War that will grow in the years ahead.”

Tauck was one of the first to develop a program that capitalizes on the Civil War sesquicentennial, working with historian Ken Burns to develop a tour that sold out in ten days. Another Civil War tour program is planned for this fall, Armstrong notes. Many states such as Virginia and Missouri—as many as 30 states have programs—are also making a major effort to mark the anniversary of the war. Also among the sesquicentennial champions is the National Park Service (NPS), which is leading the charge in commemorating what was and is a defining event our nation's history. The anniversary is also benefiting from a Presidential Proclamation signed by President Obama in April.

Tauck’s Armstrong noted that interest in the Civil War, while large, is difficult to pinpoint.

“It’s hard to calculate, because there’s not any meaningful historical data to draw from,” Armstrong said. “You’d have to go back to records from the centennial anniversary in the early sixties, but any data—even if it were available—would be essentially meaningless. Anecdotally, though, the market seems to be sizeable and the interest seems to be there. Again, you don’t have to look any farther than the media attention the anniversary has been getting, or the fact that our initial Ken Burns event sold out in just ten days.”

“Interest in the Civil War anniversary has already been shown to be huge. There was a constant stream of media coverage as we approached the anniversary of the shelling of Fort Sumter last month, and it’s barely lessened since then,” Armstrong noted.

Tauck’s five-day Ken Burns Civil War event in Washington, D.C., in April was a one-time gathering (May 22 – 26) that featured a personal appearance by Burns. The new 11-day Civil War tours scheduled for this fall will cover much more ground and will have numerous departures in the fall, Armstrong noted.

“From an agent’s perspective, that’s why the Tauck programs with Ken Burns are so beneficial,” he said. “We’ve put together enhanced experiences, with “insider” access at different attractions and exclusive visits at sites that aren’t available to independent travelers, plus we’ve added Burns’ perspectives and insights. We have bundled everything in an all-inclusive package that will earn agents great commission. Our Ken Burns Civil War programs represent agents’ best way to capitalize on the increased interest in the war.”

The National Park Service stressed that its sesquicentennial celebration of the American Civil War presents a distinctive opportunity to capture the imagination of current and potential visitors to U.S. parks and further the ideals of the national park system. Specifically, the National Park Service’s website provides Civil War-related, park-based information linked geographically, historically or by visitor interest; a comprehensive calendar of events; information on community efforts to preserve Civil War sites; a time line; and information for children, families and groups as well as Civil War students.

Another noteworthy asset is the state of Virginia, which also has an outstanding website that is an invaluable resource. One noteworthy event is the 150th Anniversary of First Manassas (Bull Run) at the Manassas National Battlefield Park on July 21. The event is one of many planned by the parks, state and local bureaus.

Missouri is another state that has developed a highly useful website packed with information on events and historical information. Many states, from Alabama and Texas to Wisconsin and Massachusetts are also offering suggestions for local events and in some cases offer incentives for participating. Of particular note is the Gettysburg Visitors Bureau that has a website filled with information for visitors and groups.

Tauck’s “Most Hallowed Ground” Civil War tour program is scheduled for September and October of 2011. The tour begins in Washington, D.C., and concludes in Richmond, VA, and is priced from $3,980 per person, double occupancy, plus air. Included in the price are all accommodations, most meals, admission to all sites and attractions, entertainment, airport transfers, luggage handling and more.

Hotel accommodations include three nights at the Mayflower Renaissance in Washington, D.C., overnights at the Wyndham Gettysburg and Big Meadows Lodge in Shenandoah National Park (VA), two nights at the Omni Charlottesville Hotel, and three nights at The Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

Another plus for agents hoping to launch a Civil War anniversary-related marketing program is the anticipated media attention. One current example marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War is offered by the History Channel, which will premiere a two-hour two part special on the battle of Gettysburg, airing at 9 p.m. Eastern on May 30.

Marketing opportunities are expected to proliferate as awareness of the sesquicentennial increases and additional programs emerge.

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