Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 2:45pm
(Baltimore, MD) – Visit Baltimore held its annual business meeting today at the France Merrick Performing Arts Center to share convention and leisure sales and marketing results from fiscal year 2015 with more than 300 members of the hospitality and business community.
Discussion focused on the impact of tourism to the regional economy, fiscal 2015 accomplishments and challenges, and new initiatives for fiscal year 2016. The meeting also recognized the first Visit Baltimore Foundation scholarship recipients and honored the efforts of partners throughout the industry for their contributions toward growing the tourism community.
Record Visitation and Spending
According to Longwoods International, Baltimore welcomed 24.5 million domestic visitors in calendar year 2014, who spent a record $5.2 billion at the rate of $10,000 per minute – up 3.7 percent over 2013. Visitor spending contributed $649 million in state and local taxes, the equivalent tax savings of $630 per Baltimore household. The influx of visitors also helped expand the workforce to 82,379 jobs, reflecting 7.4 percent of total area employment worth $2.7 billion in personal income.
Meetings Mean Business to Baltimore
Despite the unrest in April, 2015 remained a record year for citywide conventions as the city will welcome 30 groups to Baltimore this calendar year. In fiscal year 2015, Visit Baltimore booked a total of 398 events for future years, generating 424,115 future hotel room nights with an economic impact of more than $263 million. Short-term demand remained strong with 52 percent of this year’s room nights actualizing in calendar years 2015-2017.
Leveraging Baltimore’s strong regional economy and key industries, the sales team was able to attract a number of high-value meetings from top vertical markets including those in the scientific, technical, health, medical and education markets. The Synchronicities sales partnership with San Antonio and Anaheim, announced at last year’s annual meeting, generated seven convention bookings worth $39 million and totaling 72,176 future room nights. There was also outstanding success in the multi-cultural meetings segment generating 35,658 future room nights with key bookings including the NAACP 2017 Annual Convention, Islamic Circle of North America for 2017 and 2018, and the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine’s 2019 Imperial Council Session.
Organizational Highlights for FY15
Visit Baltimore continued to invest in new sales and marketing initiatives designed to increase the city’s competitive position and attract additional visitation in fiscal year 2015 and beyond. Key highlights included:
• The “My BMore” destination awareness campaign launched, featuring nine personalities with authentic connections to Baltimore sharing what they love about the city with potential visitors.
• A new Experiential Tourism program allowed visitors to get beneath the surface and behind the scenes when discovering the Baltimore story. A collection of 14 immersive experiences, the program is designed for group tour operators, reunion planners, destination weddings and meetings.
• More than 2,000 people attended the second annual Family Reunion Expo, taking advantage of resources provided from the tourism community.
• To honor Black History Month and the state’s Jubilee 1864 commemorations, a special Legends & Legacies Heritage Bus Tour offered visitors the opportunity to experience Baltimore’s African American museums, telling the story of the African American journey to freedom.
• More than $138 million in positive earned media coverage helped to showcase Baltimore’s tourism community.
The Visit Baltimore Education & Training Foundation, created in late 2014, has two key goals – to help Baltimore city’s young people and local residents build a career in the tourism industry through mentorship and scholarships and, over time, to educate the public about Baltimore’s unique history and assets through dedicated heritage and multicultural tourism programs and events. Through the support of the Baltimore Convention and Tourism Board and a successful “Casual for A Cause” fundraising campaign, the foundation is able to award $2,500 in scholarships to Jodi Radebaugh, incoming president of Morgan State’s Chapter of the National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, and Brianna Williams, the incoming campus events chairperson of F.U.T.U.R.E., another campus community service organization. Both are students in the Hospitality Management Program at Morgan State University.
Several other awards were given as part of the program to recognize special achievements in Baltimore’s tourism industry.
- The William Donald Schaefer Baltimore Tourism Visionary Award was presented to Kevin Plank, CEO and founder of Under Armour, for his ongoing dedication and commitment to growing Baltimore. Plank is working to open a hotel in Fell’s Point, took part in the “My BMore” campaign and has transformative plans for Port Covington. This is in addition to his retail stores and dedication to bringing a strong tradition of winning thoroughbred racing back to Maryland.
- This year’s Customer of the Year was presented to both the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and the Food and Safety Summit. Both groups remained steadfast in their support of Baltimore hosting meetings during and immediately following the unrest. The Food Safety Summit met April 27-30 at the Baltimore Convention Center drawing 1,155 attendees. The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine met May 3-6 and realized record attendance with 1,197 attendees.
- Baltimore Salesperson of the Year was awarded to Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP for her dedication and leadership in bringing the NAACP 2017 Convention home to Baltimore.
- The Charlyene E. Grimes Customer Service Award was given to Gene Taylor, of the National Aquarium. During the unrest, Mr. Taylor worked closely with a group tour whose bus was delayed due to the protests. He worked to keep the group informed, providing excellent customer service in a challenging time.
Visit Baltimore President and CEO Tom Noonan also reviewed several organizational initiatives for fiscal year 2016 including hosting the International Association of Exhibitions and Event’s Expo! Expo! in December, the debut of Light City Baltimore, and an enhanced culinary plan to elevate Baltimore’s food scene.
Full details of Visit Baltimore’s fiscal year 2015 results and fiscal year 2016 initiatives can be found in the Fiscal Year 2015-16 Annual Report and Business Plan, available online at http://baltimore.org/info/visit-baltimore-annual-reports-and-business-plans.
Visit Baltimore is the official sales and marketing organization for Baltimore that generates economic benefits for stakeholders through the attraction of convention, group and leisure visitors. For more information, please visit www.baltimore.org.