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Baltimore’s future hotel bookings down 8%

While Baltimore’s tourism agency didn’t book as many future hotel room nights for conventions as it did last year, the city’s hotel occupancy and revenue per room increased over the past year.

Visit Baltimore booked 457,051 convention room nights for future years during fiscal 2011, about an 8 percent decline from fiscal 2010’s future room nights booked.

But Visit Baltimore officials said last week that those hotel rooms will create an economic impact of $365 million, an increase from the $315 million generated last fiscal year. The city’s tourism agency held its annual meeting Thursday.

The city’s occupancy rate for hotel rooms is also up, at 62.2 percent during the first three months of the year, compared to 59.2 percent during the corresponding period of 2010, according to Smith Travel Research of Hendersonville, Tenn.

Baltimore is also seeing more tax revenue from hotel rooms, bolstered by a 2 percentage point increase in the room tax that was passed by city officials last year. According to the Baltimore City Department of Finance, the city got $5.7 million in room taxes in the first quarter of 2011, compared to $4.2 million during the first quarter of 2010.

And overall, tourism increased in 2010. Baltimore welcomed 21.3 million visitors last year, compared to 20.4 million in 2009. Spending in 2010 was also up from $4.1 billion in 2009 to $4.4 billion in 2010, according to figures released by Longwoods International in New York and Tourism Economics Inc. in Wayne, Pa.

Visit Baltimore CEO Thomas J. Noonan reviewed during the meeting some of the events and initiatives in fiscal 2012 that will help boost “tourism recovery.”

This summer, the city hosted conferences like the Americas Meetings & Events Exhibitions put on by Americas Incentive Business Travel & Meetings, and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which combined drew more than 6,000 visitors and $5.5 million in direct spending, he said.

The meetings were key for Baltimore, officials have said, because both were opportunities to showcase the city’s tourism offerings and hopefully draw more convention business in the future.

Looking ahead, September’s Baltimore Grand Prix is expected to draw 100,000 visitors and generate about $11 million in tax revenue, city officials said. And the national launch of the three-year commemoration of the bicentennial of the War of 1812 is also underway and is expected to put the city further into the spotlight next year and in 2013.