The Baltimore Buzz [Meetings Edition] - Winter 2017

January 2017

Al Hutchinson Joins Visit Baltimore as New President and CEO  

After an extensive national search, Visit Baltimore is thrilled to welcome Al Hutchinson as our new president and CEO. A seasoned hospitality and destination marketing veteran, Al brings more than 24 years of experience to Baltimore, most recently serving as president and CEO of Visit Mobile where he was recognized as the 2016 Alabama Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance’s "Tourism Promoter of the Year."   

Q: Tell us more about your professional experience and how it’s prepared you for taking the CEO position in Baltimore? 

I’ve been working most of my professional career in the hospitality industry, and have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work in several different sectors that have all prepared me for the role of President and CEO. From roles in the hotel business, to sales leadership positions with Richmond, Pittsburgh and Virginia Beach, to time with the Charlotte Convention Center, and most recently as President and CEO of Visit Mobile, I’ve learned this business from many lenses. These experiences have offered different perspectives into the world of tourism and conventions sales, which I’ll bring with me to Baltimore. 

Q. What do you see as your top priorities as you come on board in Baltimore? 

Since the moment I’ve touched down in Baltimore, I’ve had my ear to the ground. My top priority is to first listen and learn from Visit Baltimore’s staff and community stakeholders. I’m learning what is working, what challenges exist, and from there, I'll develop a strategic plan to drive economic impact for Baltimore by attracting convention, business and leisure travelers.

A key part of my plan is to work with those already in the trenches to further the efforts to expand the Baltimore Convention Center and get our funding renewed in this year’s legislative session. I will also meet with community leaders of all avenues to develop new strategies to strengthen Baltimore’s brand, both locally and across the country. And finally, I am dedicated to finding new ways to reach and grow Visit Baltimore’s partnerships within the community for the benefit of all in the City. 

Q. Do you agree that a Convention Center expansion and new arena project are necessary?

Absolutely. I support efforts of the City, state and civic partners in exploring the best and most efficient ways to keep the Baltimore Convention Center highly relevant to customers and to the local community. The current building has been operating at or near practical maximum capacity for many years, and strong demand exists within the meetings marketplace for a renovated and expanded building in Baltimore.  

The programming, conceptual design and engineering study soon to be underway through the Maryland Stadium Authority is an important step forward in determining how much and what kind of spaces will be most beneficial for years to come.

Q: What attracted you to Baltimore? 

It is a premier East Coast destination with great domestic and international lift at BWI Airport. The diversity of the neighborhoods, the hip and authentic vibe of the City and the strong culinary offerings are all key attributes necessary to retain and attract visitors. 

I was also drawn to the opportunity to lead such a strong CVB. Both the Visit Baltimore and Convention Center staff are extraordinary and highly respected within the industry. 

Three Trailblazers Join the My BMore Campaign

Wes Moore, social entrepreneur and best-selling author; Jen Meyer, CEO of Baltimore–based incubator Betamore; and Ronald Peterson, president of Johns Hopkins Health System, are the newest personalities of the “My BMore” campaign, a meetings and tourism advertising campaign launched in April 2015 to showcase Baltimore through the lens of key visionaries with authentic connections to the city. In the newest ads, Moore invites meeting planners to learn about Baltimore's unique community of creative talent, Meyer touts the city's innovation culture, and Peterson highlights Baltimore's world-class medical facilities and cutting-edge health research. 

The ads, developed by Baltimore agency TBC, will run as full-page print and digital video concepts to further spread meetings-focused messaging in key industry publications including American Society of Association Executive’s Associations Now, The Professional Convention Management Association’s Convene, Black Meetings & Tourism and Meeting Professional International’s The Meeting Professional. Additionally, the campaign will launch a leisure-focused ad featuring Moore to highlight Baltimore’s colorfully diverse attractions in the form of festivals, museums, music and cuisine, which will run in regional travel and general interest magazines.

Transforming Our Skyline

The strength of Baltimore’s market can be seen in its skyline, where today construction cranes are assembling new developments that will soon transform our horizon. Five ambitious super-developments will offer luxury apartments, marinas, elegant restaurants, millions of square feet of office space, a whisky distillery and a revamped shipping port and rail hub, all marked by significant investor confidence. 

“Baltimore is truly undergoing a renaissance that is altering untapped industrial spaces into waterfront destinations where Baltimoreans and visitors alike can live, work and play,” said Senior Vice President of Sales and Services Amy Calvert. “The changes are driving significant job growth, attracting millennials and creating an elevated brand for Baltimore’s entire region.”

Visit The Daily Record’s special publication “Baltimore: A City in Transformation” for an in-depth look at these transformative projects. 

Baltimore Hosts Industry-Leading Meetings 

Over the past several months, Baltimore has welcomed an array of industry-leading meetings and conferences. Association Management Companies hosted its Accredited Executive Leadership Forum in November at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront while the American Association of Medical Society Executives (AAMSE), a professional association of over 1,300 medical society executives and staff specialists, gathered at the Hyatt Regency in July to connect with industry colleagues. 

Additionally, The Trust for Insuring Educators (TIE), a consortium of 66 national education associations brought their annual business meeting to Baltimore in mid-September. During that same timeframe, the city hosted The Convention Industry Council’s 2016 CMP Conclave, bringing more than 350 industry experts for professional development and networking. The groups experienced the City’s premiere meeting spaces, including featured events at award-winning restaurants, the B&O Railroad Museum, Camden Yards, Horseshoe Casino and more. Expectations continue to be exceeded through our "meetings with more" mentality. 

“From the RFP process to the final product, the Visit Baltimore team was engaged, enthusiastic, creative and welcoming! The hospitality showered on our attendees was extraordinary and all (attendees and visitors alike) felt the warmth and sincerity from the city, Convention Center, hotels, restaurants and all who contributed to making this conference one of the best!” – Karen Kotowski, CEO of Convention Industry Council 

Meetings That Give Back 

The Visit Baltimore team extends our heartfelt gratitude to three recent meeting groups—Natural Products Expo East, The Trust for Insuring Educators and METALCON 2016—for not only choosing Baltimore as their meeting destination, but extending their impact into our communities. These organizations demonstrate that meetings are not only about networking, but also harnessing an organizations power to do generous amounts of good.  

  • Natural Products Expo East donated all leftover product from events, booths and other centerplate orders to be donated to the Maryland Food Bank.
  • Trust for Insuring Educators (TIE) donated nearly $10,000 to two charities: The Baltimore Station, a residential treatment center for homeless veterans that have been active in Baltimore for more than 25 years, and Clean the World, an organization dedicated to distributing hygiene kits to impoverished children and families. Learn more about TIE's charitable impact
  • METALCON partnered Baltimore’s arm of America’s Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping veterans in all branches of the military in need of adaptive home support services throughout the Baltimore area.
  • Geological Society of America hosted Baltimore Rocks!, a geoscience open-house event for the public, featuring hands-on experiments and demonstrations for children of all grade levels. The event is featured in this video about Baltimore meetings' impact on the local community.

Business Buzz 

Free Crab Feast 

As a thank you for booking in Baltimore, we’re combining our charming hospitality with the Chesapeake’s tastiest catch. The first 10 meeting planners to book a 2017-2018 meeting with over 3,000 total room nights will be treated to a free crab feast for up to 200 people (or value up to $10,000)*. See our website for a list of available Hot Dates, and when you're ready to book, call 800-343-3468 or contact the convention sales team online. Just indicate the dates you're interested in and a team member will be in touch.

Meetings with More

Visit Baltimore has added three new "Meetings with More" video testimonials, which highlight Baltimore’s top features for hosting meetings and conventions. Visit the testimonial page to learn about why Baltimore’s walkable "Convention Campus" allows for easy exploring, how we injected charm into the hospitality experience and the 2016 National Urban League Conference’s seamless planning process.

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