Promoting the city

At Work

As BACVA president, Thomas J. Noonan works to increase tourism, attract conventions


August 01, 2007|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to the Sun

Thomas J. Noonan

President and chief executive officer, Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA)

Salary --$185,000

Age --42

Time on the job: --Seven months

How he got started --Before promoting Baltimore as the best location to hold a conference, he promoted Dallas for 18 years with the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau (DCVB). For eight of those years, he worked out of the DCVB's Washington office and fell in love with the Mid-Atlantic. When the opening for BACVA came up, he scheduled a video interview and became a finalist for the job, eventually securing it. He started in January.

Typical day --Meetings, meetings and more meetings. Noonan said an average day is filled with about four or five meetings. Also, at least one or two nights a week he's attending an event or meeting. These appointments could be with City Hall, a civic leader or a visiting corporate or association customer. Other times, he's usually getting updates from BACVA's departments. He oversees about 50 people.

Ultimately, his job is to increase tourism and to sell meeting packages to corporate, industry and membership groups that book the convention center and area hotels. "We're the convention-deal brokers. We put all the parties together, put a package together and present it to the customer."

On booking Baltimore --"It's a good-sized destination that has a really upscale hotel package. There are a lot of cities in America that would kill for the hotel package Baltimore has."

Only going to get better --More than 2,000 new hotel rooms are being added to Baltimore's inventory, including the new Hilton hotel opening next August, with 757 rooms. Baltimore officials are counting on the publicly financed convention hotel at 410 W. Pratt St., to stimulate slowing business at the adjacent Baltimore Convention Center.

The numbers --His staffers set up about 60 events each year at the convention center. They are booking conventions as far out as 2015 and beyond. Baltimore is large enough that it could support about 80 percent of all conventions held in the United States; the other 15 percent would require more hotel rooms and larger convention space.

Getting to know Baltimore --He said he's having fun. He bought a house in Canton, has an easy commute and wanted to get to know the city as quickly as possible. "The best way to do that is to live in the city. You need to eat, sleep, drink and breathe the destination."

The challenge --Noonan hopes to increase BACVA's marketing budget to get the word out to more people that Baltimore is a great destination. "Our product is better than the perception. The reality is, if people come here they love it."

Best feature --Baltimore and many of its attractions are convenient and easy to walk to.

Customer he's seeking --Medical associations.

Stiffest competition --Washington, Philadelphia and Boston.

The good --"I love being the head sales guy for a city. It's fun when your job is to tell people what a great city you live in."

The bad --Being pulled in too many directions.

Loving Baltimore --"I enjoy being here. I love that it pokes fun at itself and has a quirkiness to it. It has spirit."

Philosophy on the job --"We work for the citizens of Baltimore."

Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun

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