The Star-Spangled Sailabration, a week-long celebration of the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key’s penning of The Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812, generated an economic impact more than three times that of the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix, according to a study released Thursday.
More than 1.5 million people attended Sailabration from July 13 to 19, generating $166.1 million in economic activity, $97.7 million of which was direct impact and another $68.4 million that was indirect, the study said. Tall ships in the Inner Harbor and an air show by the Blue Angels were top draws.
More than 28 percent of attendees were from outside Maryland and 55 percent were from outside Baltimore County and the city of Baltimore, where the maritime and air displays took place, the report found. Visitors came from as far as Massachusetts, Florida and California.
The study called Sailabration “likely one of the top U.S. historical and civic celebrations of the year,” significantly aided by “perfect weather” throughout the week.
“We welcomed the world to Baltimore and showcased our amazing city and wonderful people,” Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said in a statement. “Tourism is one of Baltimore’s major economic engines and Sailabration revealed once again what an unparalleled host we can be.”
The event cost just $4.8 million, according to the study commissioned by Star-Spangled 200 Inc. and conducted by Pittsburgh-based Forward Analytics. That means for every $1 spent on the event, $35 was generated in direct and indirect impact on the Maryland economy, the study said.
The Baltimore Grand Prix generated an economic impact of $47 million in 2011, according to a study conducted by Forward Analytics at the time. A 2012 study has not yet been completed.
The Under Armour Baltimore Running Festival had an economic impact of $30.5 million in 2011, according to a study conducted by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute.
The weeklong Sailabration had free outdoor entertainment, including an international parade of more than 45 tall ships and navy vessels and an air show featuring the Blue Angels. There were also 75 concerts, 55 food stalls, more than 30 exhibitors and 21 cooking demonstrations — all free.
Visitors spent about $44.1 million at local restaurants, the study said, and overnight visitors reserved 42,159 hotel room nights to generate $6.8 million for that industry. About 10,000 others are believed to have stayed on boats docked in the Inner Harbor and Canton marinas.
Impact was not limited to the area surrounding Baltimore’s waterfront, the study said. In Mount Vernon, the Star-Spangled Symphony sold more than 2,440 seats at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall for the debut of “Overture for 2012,” performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
On average, each non-city resident spent about $80 at Sailabration, the report said.
“Our restaurants, hotels and attractions were packed to the brim,” said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee and president of Star-Spangled 200.
“Sailabration enlivened businesses everywhere from the waterfront and Federal Hill to Fell’s Point and Locust Point,” he added. “It was truly a great success by all measures.”
The spending boosted government coffers, too. The state received about $5.7 million in tax revenue and Baltimore gained about $1.5 million in tax revenue from visitors’ spending, the study said.
“Sailabration brought in millions of dollars in revenue to help strengthen our state’s economy, and that was just the beginning of a multi-year commemoration in Maryland,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “We look forward to bringing in even more revenue for our state and sharing the many great stories from our nation’s legacy.”
The event was the national kick-off to a three-year celebration of the War of 1812 bicentennial.