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Visit Baltimore has relaunched its Meet Local campaign to encourage people to keep their meetings and social events local (Maximilian Franz/ The Daily Record).

Visit Baltimore wants businesses to keep events local

In an attempt to save Baltimore’s tourism and hospitality industry and the tens of thousands of people it employs, Visit Baltimore is making a request to residents and businesses: Stay local.

The city’s official sales and marketing arm announced Monday that it’s re-launching its “Meet Local” campaign to encourage area residents and businesses to hold their next meeting or social event in Baltimore.

“Our hospitality and tourism industry really needs our support right now,” said Visit Baltimore CEO Tom Noonan.

Baltimore’s tourism industry has taken a hit since the Freddie Gray riots in April. Hotel occupancy is down 5 to 7 percent while attendance at museums, restaurants and other attractions is down 10 to 20 percent, said Noonan.

“It’s really important to try to make sure business keeps coming to their doors,” he said.

While Visit Baltimore gets numbers on hotel occupancies rates, data about restaurant and museum attendance is largely anecdotal.

Visit Baltimore hopes the campaign will drive short-term incremental business to Baltimore’s hospitality industry, which employs 82,000 people in the city. Those workers contribute a reported $2.7 billion to the local economy in salaries earned.

Noonan hopes people realize that a sizable number of city residents work in the hospitality industry. The industry makes up 7.4 percent of the Baltimore area’s employment, per Visit Baltimore.

“This is affecting your neighbors, this is about affecting your friends,” said Noonan.

Noonan described “Meet Local” as an ongoing campaign that is “re-energized” every two to three years, depending on the need to revamp city tourism.

Visit Baltimore saw this as a good time for the relaunch because companies are planning year-end meetings and looking ahead to 2016 while families are planning holiday gatherings.

Conventions also boost local tourism. A convention with 100 people can bring $100,000 in business to one hotel, said Noonan. Baltimore Comic Con, which draws thousands, was a big success for many area hotels last month.

Visit Baltimore is promoting “Meet Local” through digital and print advertising, direct email marketing campaigns and in-person appeals to local corporate leaders, business organizations, nonprofit groups, faith-based groups and government agencies, according to a statement.