As the entire state of Maryland attempts to rebound from April’s rioting, local tourism officials are asking for public support to fund initiatives that will restore Baltimore’s national reputation.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the city’s economy is still suffering as a result of the unfortunate events this past spring, and tourism officials are becoming more urgent in their efforts to convince tourists that Baltimore is still a great place to visit.
Tourism officials are making a case to the public for increased funding by noting how much the downturn has affected the economy, which was already struggling before the riots. Also, tourism creates a litany of entry-level jobs for locals which, in turn, does even more to stimulate the regional economy.
As other major cities continue to ramp up their tourism efforts, Baltimore officials are saying their city has to follow suit. Several other cities have started to direct more money towards tourism marketing and invest in new or improved convention centers, two things that these same local officials have been suggesting for years.
“It’s going to take a lot to restore perception of the city,” said Sam Rogers, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Visit Baltimore, the city’s official tourism initiative. “We’re up against a lot of competition.”
Visit Baltimore said that attendance to local attractions has declined between 10-30% since 2014, and that number continues to dwindle. At the National Aquarium in Baltimore, which is home to more than 17,000 unique creatures, traffic has decreased by a whopping 7%.
“We are underfunded from a destination marketing standpoint in Baltimore,” said Margo Amelia, vice president and chief marketing officer at the aquarium. “We cannot compete. We need money to do a positive Baltimore message.”
According to Business Insider, Maryland was only 26th on a list ranking states by the number of tourists they attracted in 2014. That ranking is expected to plummet on the 2015 list, and tourism officials want to shift the momentum before it’s too late.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s spokesman, Howard Libit, has said that it’s “too early to say” if their administration would seek state support to increase Visit Baltimore’s funding and/or invest in a new convention center.
However, if Rawlings-Blake continues to postpone a substantial investment in tourism, many believe that Baltimore could lose the positive national reputation that it has worked so hard to build.