Baltimore has come a long way since former City Councilman Robert Fitzpatrick last saw it 17 years ago.
"Baltimore was not a city worth visiting, and the idea of tourism brought derisive laughter," Mr. Fitzpatrick told the crowd that came to the Convention Center yesterday for the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association luncheon celebrating National Tourism Week.
Mr. Fitzpatrick, who served on the City Council from 1972 to 1975, was the keynote speaker at the BACVA-sponsored gathering that honored former association chairman and founder Jack Moseley for his leadership in the development of Baltimore tourism.
Mr. Moseley relinquished his position after stepping down last November as chairman of USF&G Corp., the Baltimore-based insurance company. To keep up the momentum gained by the development of the Inner Harbor and other tourist attractions, Baltimore must continue to invest in cultivating and enhancing its tourism industry, said Mr. Fitzpatrick, who is president of EuroDisney, the Walt Disney Co. theme park and resort under construction near Paris.
"Without a will to make tourism a priority, Baltimore will miss its future," he declared.
Mr. Fitzpatrick noted the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor as one of the city's premier achievements. Tourism accounts for more than $8.6 billion in gross revenues across the state of Maryland, thanks to projects like Harborplace, the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center.
Baltimore can't stop there, Mr. Fitzpatrick said.
"Yesterday, driving up Charles Street, I saw the small re-beginnings of decay -- empty stores, unkempt streets, and the absence of flowers and plants -- a poignant reminder that what has been achieved can be very quickly lost," he said.
The former Johns Hopkins University dean of students spoke of the proposed $150 million expansion of the Convention Center: "My years at Disney have taught me that continually investing, constantly refreshing and regularly renewing . . . are the only way to remain a leader in this highly competitive industry."
He said later, "If you wait for the good times, it's too late," since such a large project requires a long lead time during which the competition can gain ground.