Md. tourism to get boost via buses at Olympics State ads cover vehicles lent to Atlanta for games

July 19, 1996|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Marylanders who attend the Olympics are likely to be surprised by a familiar sight.

Now crisscrossing the streets of Georgia's capital city are public transit buses that look suspiciously like the ones in Maryland.

The state's Mass Transit Administration agreed to lend 40 buses to Atlanta for use during the Olympics, which start today and run through Aug. 4. It's part of a nationwide effort in which 50 public transit agencies lent 1,450 buses to Atlanta to transport athletes and spectators to sports venues, downtown hotels, parking lots and other destinations.

In return, the state was allowed to put messages that promote Maryland on the sides and back of each bus sent to Atlanta.

All 40 feature the state's tourism marketing message -- "Maryland. So Many Things To Do. So Close Together" -- and photos of attractions such as the National Aquarium, Oriole Park and the Chesapeake Bay.

Placards also provide a toll-free phone number (1-800-MD IS FUN) to call for a travel kit and more information about Maryland.

In effect, the buses are "rolling billboards" for Maryland, said MTA spokesman Anthony Brown. "They not only serve the needs of Atlanta. They just may encourage some people to visit Maryland, too."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening had the idea of putting the tourism messages on the buses and it turned out to be a valuable way to promote the state, said George Williams, the state's director of tourism.

"They'll be down there for 45 days," he said. "We could never have bought that space."

Atlanta needed to borrow buses because it expects more than 2 million people to visit during the 17-day event, including 10,000 athletes from 197 countries. More than 200 of the buses, including Maryland's, will stay in Atlanta for use in the 1996 Paralympic Games in August.

The MTA could spare the buses because it doesn't need its entire fleet of 850 in the summer, when public schools aren't in session, Brown said.

Pub Date: 7/19/96

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