Comedian Rodney Dangerfield and Maryland's tourism industry have one thing in common.
Both have trouble getting respect.
To make Marylanders more aware that tourism is a major component of the state's economy, the state yesterday unveiled a $150,000 advertising campaign. It features the slogan: "Company's coming. Let's keep them coming back."
The aim of the campaign is to ensure that tourists are treated well and have a good time while they are here.
State officials say that more than 30 million tourists visit Maryland annually and spend about $5 billion while they are here. By the time the tourism industry's businesses and 75,000 workers recycle that money, there's a net benefit of $8 billion to the state's economy.
The campaign is aimed at strengthening the travel industry and gaining public support for the state's efforts to attract tourists.
"There is a lack of awareness of how much impact tourism has on the state's economy," said Luwanda Jenkins, manager of in-state programs for the Office of Tourism Development in the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.
Maryland is facing tough competition from neighboring states, which have been advertising heavily here, Jenkins said.
But at a time when the state is facing a financial crisis -- a $109 million shortfall in projected revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30 -- allocating money for and promoting tourism may be a tough political sell when social programs may face additional cuts.
"A $100 million deficit, that's nothing," said Gov. William Donald Schaefer at a summit meeting on tourism sponsored by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel downtown. "So we happen to have this deficit. I don't know what to do . . . but I do know that tourism can help."
"I think we have so many economic problems we have to do what we can to stimulate growth in certain industries and tourism is one of them," said Del. Howard Pete Rawlings, D-City, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The promotional campaign, called "Tourism in Maryland with Pride," consists of informational materials and two commercials, produced by WBAL-TV and created by Image Dynamics, that will begin airing on Channel 11 in mid-May and run through early July.