Baltimore Welcomed Record 25.9 Million Visitors in 2016

Thursday, October 5, 2017 - 9:45am

(Baltimore, MD) – Visit Baltimore held its annual business meeting today at the Hilton Baltimore to share convention and leisure sales and marketing results from fiscal year 2017 with more than 300 members of the hospitality and business community. 

Visit Baltimore discussed the impact of tourism on the regional economy, fiscal year 2017 accomplishments and challenges, and forward-looking for fiscal year 2018. The meeting also recognized the Visit Baltimore Education & Training Foundation scholarship recipients and honored the efforts of partners throughout the industry for their contributions toward growing the tourism community. 

Tourism Impacts

According to data from Longwoods International, Baltimore welcomed 25.9 million visitors in calendar year 2016, marking a  2.8 percent increase over 2015 with gains in both overnight (10.6 million) and day trip (15.3 million) categories. These visitors generated a record $5.6 billion in direct spending, contributing $705 million in local city and state taxes, a 3.8 percent increase over 2015 with a notable five percent increase in food and beverage spending in alignment with Visit Baltimore’s strategic focus on promoting the city’s culinary offerings. The meetings and tourism industry remains a major employer for the region, creating or sustaining more than 85,000 jobs, activity generating $1.5 billion in taxes and fees for the state and city. 

Meetings Mean Business to Baltimore 

In fiscal year 2017, Visit Baltimore booked a total of 385 events for future years, confirming 30 citywide conventions, and generating $332 million in future economic impact through 2032. Additionally, this fiscal year the city welcomed 53 conventions and trade shows, inclusive of 22 citywide conventions, to the Baltimore Convention Center, surpassing the last three fiscal years’. Marked by high-impact meetings, the sales team attracted a number of industry meetings from top vertical markets including those in the scientific, technical, health, medical and education markets in fiscal year 2017. Hosted meeting highlights include: 

  • ConferenceDirect’s Annual Partner Meeting brought more than 900 combined sales associated and supplier partners to Baltimore. 
  • American Health Information Management Association’s (AHIMA) Annual Meeting, the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), and the American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) all highlighted Baltimore as a healthcare and medical meetings destination. 
  • A robust calendar of diversity meetings such as the National Urban League, Alpha Kappa Alphas, Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), and the 2017 NAACP Annual Convention, which saw strong record attendance.

Organizational Highlights for FY17

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 2017 and beyond. Key highlights included:

  • Elevated Baltimore’s awareness in the international market through strategic efforts surrounding IPW, the travel industry’s premiere international marketplace, conducting more than 75 sales and media appointments and hosting pre and post event familiarization tours immersing top tier international media and group tour operators in the destination. 
  • Continued strategic culinary marketing, notably running a two-page advertorial spread highlighting Baltimore’s culinary scene across several top-tier publications including New York Times “T” Magazine’s Summer Travel issue and in the Baltimore, DC & Philadelphia June issues of Travel + Leisure, Food & Wine and Real Simple. 
  • Presented the inaugural Baltimore Legends & Legacies Jubilee during Black History Month, an event gathering 16 of the city’s top cultural attractions under one roof to celebrate the city’s rich African American heritage and culture while encouraging inclusivity and community engagement. 
  • Activated significant promotion for Light City Baltimore helping to drive a 30 percent increase in out-of-state visitors over 2016 attendance figures through public relations and marketing efforts. 
  • Enhanced local participation of National Travel and Tourism Week by creating an integrated series of programs celebrating the power of tourism through free Hop-On Hop-off Guided Neighborhood bus tours spanning more than two dozen neighborhoods and a sector-focused Career Pathways & Resources Fair in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development.  
  • Selected by Destinations International to pilot a first-of-its-kind diversity apprenticeship program through the Visit Baltimore Education & Training Foundation providing one recent student graduate unparalleled on-the-job experience followed by guaranteed employment.  
  • Strategically leveraged the existing #MyBmore to engage the local community and empower them to take an active role in sharing Baltimore’s positive stories to help inspire authentic and unique experiences for visitors. 
  • Secured more than $26.8 million in positive earned media coverage garnering more than 870 million impressions through 1,170 placements helping to tell Baltimore’s tourism story. 

Award Recipients 

The Visit Baltimore Education & Training Foundation was founded to promote and support Baltimore City and the local tourism community. One function of its programming is provide young people with encouragement and tools to join the tourism industry. Through the support of the Baltimore Convention and Tourism Board and successful fundraising campaigns, the foundation awarded 2017 Academic Scholarship Awards of $2,500 each to five local students pursing higher education and $500 to one local high school student winner of the 2018 Hospitality Competition, MD DECA. 

Several other awards were presented recognizing special achievements in Baltimore’s tourism industry and outstanding contributions to the city’s economic growth as a destination for visitors.

  • The William Donald Schaefer Baltimore Tourism Visionary Award was presented to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway theatre, the new home of the Maryland Film Festival. Located in the heart of the Station North’s Arts & Entertainment District, the property’s renovation breathed new life into this historic theater’s deteriorating space built in 1915. The Parkway transcends the term ‘movie theater’ and has become a community hub, transforming the neighborhood and serving as a tourism catalyst by bringing fans of film and art from across the world to the geographical center of Baltimore.  
  • Customer of the Year was presented to the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO). As a major industry-leading convention in the health and sciences sector, ARVO brought thought leaders in its respective discipline from across the globe to Baltimore supporting the local economy and exposing new visitors to the city. This Maryland-based organization met in Baltimore for the first year representing more than 24,000 room nights and $12.4 million in economic impact, and will return in 2020. 
  • Baltimore Salesperson of the Year was awarded to Ed Rudzinski, General Manager, Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, for his leadership in the Baltimore hospitality community, valuable partnership on sales missions and advocacy for tourism initiatives. Throughout his 47-year career with Marriott, Rudzinski was a leader in customer service and is a true champion of Baltimore. 
  • The Charlyene E. Grimes Customer Service Award was given to Michael Barrett, General Manager, Centerplate and the Baltimore Convention Center. Barrett has consistently achieved the highest customer service scores within the Centerplate, positively influencing the organization through his leadership. He is a valued asset to Baltimore, embodying the city’s welcoming and hardworking spirit.   

Full details of Visit Baltimore’s fiscal year 2017 results and fiscal year 2018 initiatives can be found in the Fiscal Year 2017-19 Annual Report and Business Plan, available online at

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 


Julia Watkins
[email protected]
410-659-7032 – office
443-299-7751 – cell