Maryland’s 28 million visitors in 2005 generated $10.7 billion for the state’s economy – an increase of $600 million from 2004, according to Hannah Lee Byron, assistant secretary of Maryland’s Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts.
More than 5,000 new jobs were generated for the tourism industry, which now employs 115,390 people, Byron told Greater Baltimore Committee members at a Hospitality/Tourism Industry meeting on June 20.
Despite tourism’s major economic impact, the Maryland General Assembly cut $600,000 from the Maryland Tourism Board in March 2007 to fund a budget amendment granting that amount to the Maryland Zoo to address operational challenges, Byron noted.
Maryland needs to recognize the importance of tourism, said Byron. Other Mid-Atlantic states, such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia all have substantially higher budgets to promote tourism than Maryland. Without adequate funding Maryland could lose a large part of its market to competing states, Byron warned.
The hospitality and tourism community needs to work together to convince state legislature this revenue generator should not be subjected to budgetary cuts, she said.
Byron’s division, which is part of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, plans to use research, sales and marketing, and advertising and public relations to generate economic benefits, which will in turn create more jobs and increase revenue in the business community and through taxes, she said.
The plan includes:
• Attracting more visitors to attractions and communities throughout Maryland
• Increasing visitor expenditures by growing the length of stay, number of visitors and total spending
• Providing first-class customer service and outstanding visitor experience at welcome centers, call centers and affiliated Web sites
• Increasing tax revenue and jobs generated by visitor spending
Byron also plans to leverage funds from other sources which have a direct impact on the state’s tourism, such as civil war trails, scenic byways and Chesapeake Bay gateways.