Doggett asks business' help in attracting conventions

30 executives sign up to be city ambassadors

November 14, 2003|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Thirty local business leaders signed up on the spot yesterday to be ambassadors for Baltimore after the head of the city's convention bureau appealed to them to help bring meetings and conventions here.

Leslie R. Doggett, president and chief executive of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, said the new initiative is aimed at overcoming a recently identified weakness in booking convention business - selling the city's assets at the board of directors level, where decisions about meeting destinations are made.

The program, announced at the Downtown Partnership's "Business Over Breakfast" meeting, will use business, community and civic leaders as contacts with various organizations. It is being conducted in conjunction with the mayor's office.

"Baltimore could have no better sales team than the people who live and work here," Doggett told several hundred people gathered at the Baltimore Convention Center yesterday for breakfast.

"We want you as ambassadors to help us by simply identifying opportunities, and from there BACVA will take over. We will present you with information and targeted research to help you make your case.

"By working together as `Team Baltimore,' I believe we can bring thousands of new visitors to Baltimore," Doggett said.

The power of local contacts has proven itself in several recent BACVA accomplishments, including Baltimore's biggest convention ever - the 2006 National Baptist Convention USA Inc. Congress of Christian Education, Doggett said. The 50,000 people expected will spend an estimated $41 million during the weeklong event.

"The real heroes are the members of the local Baptist community here in Baltimore," she said. "They were the salespeople who convinced their national organization to come to Baltimore. It is through the power of partnership that in 2006 Baltimore will host its largest convention ever. Hotels from Towson to downtown to Hunt Valley will be full."

Tourism in Baltimore generates an estimated 11 million visitors annually and nearly $3 billion in direct spending, according to BACVA.

"This is a proactive and strategic sales tactic to identify new business for Baltimore," Doggett said.

Donald P. Hutchinson, president and chief executive of SunTrust Banks' Maryland division who is a former Baltimore County executive and Greater Baltimore Committee president, told the breakfast group yesterday that BACVA's success was crucial to the city's future.

"We will grow by its successes," he said. "We will decline by its failures."

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