Baltimore has experienced exciting growth in its tourism sector over the past year, buoyed by a number of events.
The tourism industry is crucial to the economic viability of Baltimore and the surrounding regions, including neighboring Howard and Anne Arundel counties. It is a key economic driver, and its importance to the growth and development of the city cannot be overlooked.
Last year, Baltimore welcomed more than 21 million visitors, an increase of 1 million over 2009. These visitors had an economic impact of $4.4 billion; this translates into $314 million in state tax revenue and $244 million in local tax revenue.
Tourism creates more than 73,000 jobs in diverse fields, including the restaurant, entertainment, transportation, hotel and other hospitality sectors. In fact, one out of every 14 jobs in the city is supported by the industry, and related labor income is $2.2 billion. This is an additional economic benefit in the form of job tax revenue. The economic impact of the tourism industry is felt throughout the city, region and state.
Business-related visits account for more than 15% of city visits. The booming convention and meetings industry plays a critical part in getting visitors to the city. For example, Otakon, a convention that pays homage to anime cartoons, welcomed more than 31,000 (creatively-dressed) attendees who had an estimated economic impact of $11.3 million during a three-day period.
This year, there were a number of events and activities that increased our ability to market Baltimore to a wide variety of tourists. In June, the city welcomed more than 600 mayors from across the country to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, where they had the opportunity to experience the culture of Baltimore and the surrounding areas.
Also in June, Baltimore, in conjunction with Maryland’s Office of Tourism Development, hosted America Meetings Week and AIBTM, the first international trade show of meeting professionals held in America. Approximately 1,500 influential meeting planners from across the country and around the world joined exhibitors from major U.S. cities and 90 international tourism boards, including Canada, China, Mexico, Abu Dhabi and Brazil.
This event allowed us to market the city, the state and participating jurisdictions, including the destination-marketing organizations of Anne Arundel and Howard counties, to professionals that could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in economic impact to Maryland.
Food, Art and More
Last month, the city hosted another successful restaurant week, offering patrons the opportunity to experience the city’s burgeoning culinary scene at more than 85 restaurants.
Other events, such as the NCAA Lacrosse Final Four, the redesigned African-American festival, the 30th anniversary of ArtScape and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War also were important in attracting visitors of all ages and backgrounds.
Ongoing attractions, such as Fort McHenry, the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center, produce year-round opportunities to show off our great city.
Grand, Grand Prix
Over Labor Day weekend, Baltimore welcomed tens of thousands of fans to the inaugural Grand Prix. The streets of downtown were transformed into a high-speed raceway where cars from the IndyCar and Le Mans racing series roared past the picturesque Inner Harbor and weaved through Camden Yards.
Coverage of this event reached an audience of millions, both domestically and internationally, offering an unprecedented opportunity to showcase Baltimore. The Baltimore Grand Prix is contracted to be here for the next five years.
Next year again will put Baltimore in the forefront of tourism as we partner with the state and other jurisdictions to celebrate the bicentennial of the War of 1812. A series of events launching in late spring 2012, such as the return of the tall ships and special exhibits at Fort McHenry, will pay homage to a critical time in the history of the United States. This event, as well as returning events such as AIBTM, Baltimore Grand Prix and ArtScape, are just a few of the reasons why Baltimore continues to grow the number of visitors in the city.
Tom Noonan is president & CEO of Visit Baltimore (www.baltimore.org), the city’s official destination marketing organization. He can be reached at 410-659-7033.