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Estimates say Grand Prix boosted Baltimore hotels

Tom Noonan

Preliminary data show the Baltimore Grand Prix fueled a 44 percent boost in revenue at a sampling of 10 area hotels, city tourism officials announced Thursday.

The hotels in the sample represent about 3,000 of the 8,500 rooms at hotels of varying size in the downtown area and one hotel near Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, according to Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Baltimore, the city’s convention and tourism bureau. Labor Day weekend is traditionally the slowest time of the year for the city’s tourism industry.

“I expect that we’re going to see about 40 percent across the board,” Noonan said. “It just made our Labor Day for sure.”

The data gathered by Forward Analytics, a marketing and economic research firm, also show hotels near the downtown racetrack reported a significant increase in food and beverage sales. City-owned garages reported a 119 percent increase in weekend revenue over last year. More complete numbers are expected by Oct. 1.

Ticketfly reports more than 100,000 tickets were sold. Race organizers Baltimore Racing Development reports spending more than $3 million in race preparations. Organizers do not expect to turn a profit in the first year of the race, which has a five-year contract.

The numbers do reveal some lessons for next year, Noonan said. While some restaurants around the 2-mile track through downtown saw big increases, others in the city were flat or saw lots of tourists, but few locals over the weekend.

“We got aggressive about message about traffic downtown and I think it scared away a lot of our locals,” Noonan said. Traffic was clear outside the core of downtown and local residents could have visited their favorite hangouts, he said. “I think we have to work on that message for next year.”

Over the next several weeks, Forward Analytics will conduct a comprehensive economic analysis of the event with Visit Baltimore.

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