ANNAPOLIS IS ATTRACTING tourists in droves, if the number of inquiries at the state capital's visitors center at Gotts Court is any indication.
The facility has been averaging 600 to 700 visitors a day this
summer. As many as 1,000 people have stopped by the center on several days to pick up brochures, obtain information on local attractions or sign up for a guided tour of the renowned historic district.
Many of these visitors are not day-trippers. They are staying overnight and spending more time exploring some of Annapolis' less-obvious sights. With an estimated 2.5 million tourists coming each year, a market has developed for more hotels, restaurants and shops.
Most new hotel construction in Anne Arundel County has been taking place on the fringes of the city or around Baltimore-Washington International Airport. A 130-room Hampton Inn constructed west of the city, and projects with another 300 rooms also planned in the Parole area, are wending their way through the county's permit office. Several developers are in the process of building 570 rooms at various locations around the airport in Linthicum. Despite this hotel boom, no construction is planned within Annapolis' city limits.
Hotels would be good for the city's tax base. They generate a lot of revenue in comparison to the services they require. The time has come for the city to develop an aggressive plan to attract hotel investment.
Constructing a conference center in the city -- a long-discussed idea -- must be part of that strategy.
At present, proposals to build a conference center have stalled. Even though state and county governments are prepared to help with the financing, Annapolis' contribution remains in question. Unless the city begins to move on this issue, there is a danger that a conference center could be built outside the city, drawing any new hotels with it.
With the Annapolis mayoral race under way, candidates need to make their positions clear. If Annapolis is to make the most of its natural drawing power, the city needs to build a conference center.
It is time for some candidates to show the leadership and vision necessary to lead the city on this issue.
Pub Date: 7/31/97