OpSail, dancers stir up a windfall

Visitors estimated to have spent at least $66 million


June 30, 2000|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,SUN STAFF

Tourists attending Operation Sail 2000 and the National Square Dance Convention poured at least $66 million into Baltimore cash registers, the president of the city's visitors association said yesterday.

Although firm figures will not be available until next week at the earliest, Carroll R. Armstrong said businesses are reporting that the visitors helped them break sales records - especially during the weekend.

"We projected 1 million people over the week, and I think we probably achieved that," said Armstrong, president and chief executive of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, which helped bring both events to the Inner Harbor.

"According to the feedback I have received from merchants, all expectations have been exceeded," he said.

OpSail and the square dance convention began Friday. The convention wrapped up Sunday; the tall ships stayed in town until yesterday.

When the final figures are in, Armstrong said the two events could have a total economic impact of up to about $132 million for the Baltimore region.

Total economic impact includes both "direct" and "indirect" spending. To estimate indirect spending, BACVA multiplies the amount of direct spending by two, said Armstrong, who added that some use a multiple of 2.2.

Indirect spending is the recycling of dollars from the direct spending of tourists.

For example, because many hotels reported they were fully booked, linen companies may have added extra workers to accommodate the influx of business.

More tips

Or, because restaurants were packed, waiters and waitresses may have gotten more tips, which they then used to buy goods for their homes.

In the short term, businesses say, the two events left a financial windfall in their wake.

The convention alone was expected to attract about 15,000 attendees and contribute $11 million in direct spending.

OpSail has been termed by tourism officials as one of the biggest tourist events to dock in the city since Harborplace opened for business 20 years ago.

"This has been a great success, not only for our restaurant, but also for Harborplace and Baltimore," said John Maske, manager of Phillips Harborplace Restaurants.

In some cases, business managers said they hired more workers and ordered more goods to make sure they could accommodate the crowds.

Phillips, which serves 5,000 customers on an average Saturday, had its busiest Saturday in its two decades at Harborplace, Maske said.

Customer traffic during the weekdays was also strong, he said, but there weren't any three-hour waits as there were during the weekend.

Tiffany Jones, sales associate for Destination Baltimore, which sells T-shirts, mugs, caps and other souvenirs on the first floor of the Pratt Street Pavilion, said the shop broke records with all the tall ship visitors and square dancers.

"We've done more business this week than we've done in a long, long time," Jones said.

At one point, the shop was so jammed with square dancers with space-hogging crinoline-lined skirts that some customers had to wait for the crowds to thin to get inside, she said.

Planet Hollywood busy

Meanwhile, the Planet Hollywood restaurant increased its sales by nearly 30 percent, said Donald Moore, the executive chef.

The restaurant opened earlier during the week because customers started roaming the Inner Harbor earlier, he said.

The earlier hours didn't ease the 90-minute wait during the weekend, Moore said.

"It's normal for us to have a wait, but not for that long," he said.

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