Extending tourist season Inner Harbor: Baltimore's prime attractions must develop more year-round business.

September 19, 1997

THIS HAS BEEN a wonderful summer for most Inner Harbor businesses and attractions. Crowds have been strong, the weather has been splendid. Many visitors have returned home with good impressions of Baltimore. The question now is how to continue this momentum and extend the Inner Harbor tourist season, which now runs from mid-April to the end of October.

A winter fest is one approach. "Baltimore's hottest winter," a promotional campaign centering on the annual week-long "Baltimore On Ice" extravaganza, has been successful the last few years. Fueled by a big advertising budget that specifically targets visitors from Pennsylvania, the campaign has helped fill Inner Harbor hotel rooms during some of the slowest parts of the year.

But what about residents of this region?

Inner Harbor institutions and businesses should make an extra effort during off-peak periods to draw locals. Starting with the National Aquarium, the harbor's No. 1 tourist attraction, there ought to be "Thank you, Baltimore!" events offering admission discounts.

Some institutions are doing this as part of membership benefit packages. There are compelling reasons to become members of an institution like the Aquarium, which entitles you to unlimited visits without additional cost and no waiting in lines.

Yet despite such benefits, many Baltimore area residents are not going to join the Aquarium or the Maryland Science Center or Columbus Center. Other means are needed to draw them to the harbor.

This is where a combination pass for Inner Harbor venues could have an impact. Such a discount ticket -- which could be offered in conjunction with a hotel package to out-of-town visitors -- would be particularly useful during the slow winter months.

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association should take the lead role in making a combination ticket a reality. The Inner Harbor is a gem that should be enjoyed year-round.

Pub Date: 9/19/97

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