The Star-Spangled Spectacular, the last hurrah in a two-year commemoration of the War of 1812, represents the last big chance for Baltimore to capitalize on this historic anniversary, not just in dollars, but in reputation.
“This is a one-time chance to elevate Maryland globally,” said Bill Pencek, executive director of the 1812 Bicentennial Commission.
That chance began in 2012, when 1.54 million people flocked to Baltimore for the Star-Spangled Sailabration, generating an economic impact of $1.66 million.
According to a study that followed the event, 28 percent of the Sailabration visitors from outside the city had not been downtown or in the Inner Harbor before. More than 68 percent of visitors surveyed said they would like to attend other War of 1812 commemoration events.
Between those visitors and press coverage, Baltimore reaped some significant publicity. According to the state’s economic impact study, there were 14,536 mentions of Sailabration on social media, and 98 percent of them were favorable.
And while the city and state tourism agencies bought more than $1.6 million in advertisements, the event also drew media attention that was equivalent to about $14.4 million worth of advertising, including a broadcast on the Today Show.
The city experienced some tourism tailwinds in the aftermath. According to Visit Baltimore’s most recent annual report, Baltimore welcomed 23.9 million visitors in 2013, 2.6 percent more than the year before, and those visitors spent a record $5.15 billion.
“Once people had visited here, their impression of Baltimore changed dramatically,” said Pencek. “That’s money in the bank.”
This September’s Spectacular festivities will include two major concerts, a U.S. Navy Blue Angels Air Show, a huge fireworks display and numerous festival attractions, including smaller performances. The city will welcome more than 35 tall ships and naval vessels, which the public can visit for free.
The events will also be broadcast for a national audience on PBS.
“We are going to show off Baltimore like no one can imagine,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. “They are going to see a Baltimore that they are shocked to see.”