BACVA data present mixed picture

Convention bureau says hotel room rentals dropped by a third in fiscal quarter, while actual number of visitors rose slightly

February 11, 2004|By Todd Beamon | Todd Beamon,Baltimoresun.com Staff

More than 65,200 people attended conventions in Baltimore in the second quarter of the city's fiscal year, utilizing nearly 50,000 hotel rooms and spending $64.2 million, the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association said today.

BACVA President and Chief Executive Leslie R. Doggett said in a report released today that 49,581 hotel rooms were rented by the 65,213 people who attended conventions in the region between October and December of last year, the second three months of fiscal year 2004.

The number of hotel rooms rented, however, was down nearly 33 percent from those utilized in the comparable period last year -- 73,716 -- but the number of visitors was slightly higher in the most recent period, Doggett said. In the year-ago period, 64,984 conventioneers came to Baltimore, she said.

Spending actually is based on attendance.

"While 2003 was a tough year for the travel industry, we weathered the storm in Baltimore and have implemented strategies and programs that will aggressively market Baltimore as an ideal location for business and leisure travel in the future," Doggett said.

The report also indicated that Baltimore lost out in trying to lure 84 conventions during the quarter. Those sessions would have brought 84,703 people to Baltimore.

Twenty-three of the sessions were lost because of high hotel rates and competitive pricing by other cities. In addition, 16 organizations said their boards chose other cities over Baltimore for no specific reason, and in nine cases, hotel rooms were not available for the dates sought.

During the period, Baltimore lost five conventions to Washington, four to Northern Virginia and three each to Boston and Philadelphia. Other cities noted in the report included Atlanta, New Orleans, New York -- as well as Orlando, Fla., and Providence, R.I.

But Doggett was optimistic about the future of the city's tourism market. For instance, 46,965 future hotel rooms were booked in the second fiscal quarter, for an estimated 44,120 visitors who are expected to spend $43.5 million.

That compared with 37,662 future rooms booked in the comparable period last fiscal year, with estimated attendance of 27,998 and $27.6 million in spending.

She cited BACVA's varied marketing strategies, including its new Ambassadors Program that urges corporate leaders to tout Baltimore within their varied networks, as reasons for the improved bookings.

The efforts were responsible, for instance, for booking 13 new conventions in the quarter for the rest of the current fiscal year. Attendance is estimated at 8,585 people and spending at $8.4 million. For fiscal year 2005, which begins in September, nine more conventions were booked in the quarter, projecting to draw 20,135 people to the city who are expected to 14,314 rooms and spend $20 million.

"This is an example of BACVA's ability to quickly analyze data and design a strategy that fills a need time in the city," Doggett said. "However, many challenges remain, and moving forward, we must adjust to the changing industry trends and the way meeting planners are conducting business."

Originally published February 11, 2004, 12:26 AM EST

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