Ad Budget Gets State Boost

June 09, 1995|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Sun Staff Writer

In an attempt to resolve one of the most fractious issues in the Maryland tourism industry, Gov. Parris N. Glendening said yesterday the state would kick in up to $1.5 million in additional funding for the advertising budget of the Baltimore Convention Center.

"It makes no sense to invest . . . in an expanded convention center if you are not going to market it," Mr. Glendening said. Mr. Glendening's announcement came after more than a year of dispute among tourism-oriented businesses, the city and the state over who should pay for advertising for the convention center, which will be doubled in size by 1996.

Until recently, state officials and legislators have insisted that they shouldn't pay for additional advertising, since the state had contributed $100 million of the $150 million expansion project.

The city, citing other pressing needs such as police and education budgets, has capped its contribution to the advertising fund at about $2 million a year. And local hotels and restaurants have declined to increase their contributions, totaling about $400,000 a year, saying they already do their share of advertising.

A long-simmering conflict between the business community and the city government over the budget of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association -- the independent group that handles the convention center's marketing -- erupted last month. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke announced he planned to replace the BACVA governing board because of concerns about overspending, sparking angry ripostes from the BACVA board.

Although each group thought someone else ought to foot the bill, all agreed that an increase in the advertising budget was needed because other cities are expanding their convention centers and increasing their advertising budgets.

The number of cities with public convention centers has tripled to about 350 since the 1970s. And because of expansions in cities ranging in size from Chicago to Duluth, Ga., the amount of space available for conventions has quadrupled.

Mr. Glendening said he hopes the state's gesture breaks the funding gridlock and persuades the other parties to dig a little deeper as well.

"I understand a few problems have to be resolved" before a new BACVA board is formed, but he said he expected the controversy over the makeup of the new board to be resolved by next month.

The state's office of tourism development will contribute $300,000 to the extra advertising fund, but Mr. Glendening said he hadn't yet determined where the rest of the money would come from, or exactly how much extra money the state would contribute.

He said he expected the total extra contribution to be between $1 million and $1.5 million.

Gail Gerber, sales director of the Radisson Lord Baltimore Hotel near the Inner Harbor, said she was surprised but delighted with the governor's announcement. "It's wonderful," she said.

Ms. Gerber said she often finds Baltimore and her hotel outgunned by competitors in other nearby cities, such as Philadelphia, with bigger advertising budgets.

"Business was being taken away from us," she said.

A spokesman for BACVA Chairman Henry A. Rosenberg Jr. declined to comment on the news.

Mr. Glendening's comments came after a speech to a conference of local tourism executives, in which state officials said they planned to spend a total of $8.9 million advertising the state to tourists this year, up $3 million from last year.

The state will also expand advertising of Maryland as a destination during the fall to expand the tourist season around the state, he said.

Participants in the conference said the state also needs to select a slogan that the expanded advertising can promote.

"Maryland needs to get a slogan, whether it is 'America in miniature' or what, and stick with it. It doesn't matter whether it makes sense or not. Look at 'Virginia is for lovers.' That has worked," said Russ Yates, vice president and manager of the Holiday Park Campground in Greensboro on the Eastern Shore.

Mr. Williams said the state is going to take another look at its slogan, currently "Maryland, more than you can imagine," and either emphasize it or develop a new one.

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