Tourism in Maryland's future Lofty 2000 goals: Glendening and private industry team up to promote growth.

January 27, 1996

AS GOV. PARRIS N. Glendening rolls out his economic growth plan for the legislature to critique, aggressive promotion of tourism in Maryland is high on his list. The Maryland Tourism Development Board has targeted some lofty increases in its goals for the year 2000:

* The number of out-of-state visitors rising from 19 million to 30 million.

* Spending by tourists rising from $4.9 billion to $10 billion.

* Local and state tax revenues from tourism rising from $350 million to $750 million.

* Jobs in the state's tourism-related industries rising from 100,000 to 150,000.

To attain these goals in the fiercely competitive environment exemplified by the success of the "Virginia is for Lovers" campaign, this state is in the process of searching for a slogan and theme of its own.

Governor Glendening got off to a quick start when the 1995 General Assembly increased funding for tourism promotion from million to $8.5 million. In addition, the private sector pledged to double the $45 million it spends on its own. Note the Greater Baltimore Committee's call for a $2.5 million restaurant tax to supplement government aid aimed at broadcasting the city's charms. One of the goals is to reverse a situation in which outside travel destinations spend almost twice as much in Maryland advertising their own charms as Maryland spends elsewhere to lure visitors to our state.

Several factors indicate that the new tourism objectives are not just will-o'-the-wisp. BWI's international terminal and adjacent light-rail extension now under construction will enhance its appeal. Expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center will bring more and bigger meetings. The Inner Harbor is adding attractions at a furious pace, increasing the prospects that visitors will spend more than a day in town.

In Western Maryland, the Rocky Gap golf course and conference center should finally begin construction this year. And there is substantial state investment in the $32 million Canal Place restoration in Cumberland.

The list goes on, but it in no way diminishes the need for coordinated action if Maryland is to achieve its aim of being one rTC of the nation's top 20 tourist attractions. This state has immense resources. With manufacturing in the doldrums, the federal government and defense industries reducing their work forces and entrepreneurial new business still lagging expectations, tourism can be a powerful economic growth tool in the years ahead. It's up to all Marylanders to make it so.

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