Battle for tourist dollar endless, Schaefer says

April 26, 1994|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland will have to constantly reinvent its image as it battles other states with heftier promotion budgets for its share of tourists' dollars, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday.

Maryland has been losing a tug-of-war over tourism to rivals such as Virginia, Pennsylvania and even Alabama, which have run strong promotional campaigns to lure visitors, Governor Schaefer told about 300 people at the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association's annual tourism luncheon yesterday.

The state must continually sell itself as a place to visit, rather than resting on successes such as the Inner Harbor and on plans such as those for the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Biotechnology and an expanded Baltimore Convention Center, he said.

"You just don't take status quo," he said at the Convention Center. "It's a continuing battle against every other state and every other city around us."

The governor criticized state legislators for failing to pass the Maryland Tourism Development Board's proposed bill that would have channeled a portion of sales tax increases to tourism promotion. The General Assembly, which concluded its session earlier this month, instead required the governor to request an additional $3 million in each of the next three fiscal years for tourism promotion and advertising.

Tourism accounts for 74,000 jobs and pumped $4.8 billion into the state's economy last year. But Maryland lags behind neighboring states in promotion, spending $5 million a year to Virginia's $10.1 million and Pennsylvania's $12 million.

BACVA officials announced that Baltimore edged out 13 other locations, including Cincinnati, Atlantic City, Las Vegas, Hawaii, Miami and Washington, in its bid to be host to the July 1997 annual convention of Meeting Planners International. The convention's 2,000 delegates, more than half of whom plan meetings for their employers, are expected to spend $1.8 million and generate future conventions for the city. Baltimore also has been chosen as the site of the American Society of Association Executives' December 1997 management conference.

The city was able to bid on both meetings because of the expansion of the Convention Center, which is scheduled to be completed by spring 1997.

During the luncheon, the association honored sportscaster Jim McKay -- chairman of the Maryland Tourism Development Board -- with the Jack Moseley Tourism Leadership Award.

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