ANNAPOLIS – The state will provide free transit on Baltimore and Washington Metro, amusement park discounts and free fishing in the second phase of its “Maryland on the Move” campaign to boost the sagging tourism industry.
During Columbus Day weekend, bridge and tunnel tolls were free and park fees were reduced. This new phase will encourage Marylanders to return to the state’s tourism attractions.
The campaign is designed to not “let fear force us to withdraw from our normal lives,” said Gov. Parris N. Glendening Wednesday in announcing “Maryland Family Fun Weekend.”
“It is important to know that as Marylanders experience the beauty and fun of Maryland, they are doing more to strengthen Maryland’s economy and sending the message that we will not be deterred from enjoying our lives,” the governor said.
There has been a “major turndown” in the state’s tourism industry since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Glendening said.
The exact impact is still difficult to quantify and most indicators are anecdotal, said Hannah Byron, director of the Maryland Office of Tourism Development.
Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have been particularly hard-hit, Byron said, attributing much of the impact to the closing of Reagan National Airport after the attacks. The airport reopened with a limited schedule Oct. 4.
Frederick and Talbot counties appear to be doing “remarkably well,” Byron said, but “you can call a hotel in Frederick County and numbers are still down.”
Four conventions have been cancelled since Sept. 11 at the Baltimore Convention Center, said Executive Director Peggy Daidakis.
Ocean City, meanwhile, saw more than 149,000 people visit over the Columbus Day weekend, about 3,000 fewer than last year, said Jeannie Powell from the city’s Department of Tourism.
Some of the “free stuff from the Free State” includes: half-price adult admissions Friday through Sunday at Six Flags America in Largo, “buy one, get one free” rides on the tethered, helium-filled balloon Saturday and Sunday at Baltimore’s Port Discovery, a Dixieland band at Arundel Mills Mall on Saturday and a lifting of fishing license requirements for the weekend.
Glendening announced last week that he was tripling the advertising budget for tourism through the end of the year.
Ads for the “Maryland Family Fun Weekend” began running Wednesday in Maryland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
“Ultimately it’s paying off,” Byron said of the governor’s tourism campaign. “But the industry is so volatile we don’t know what is going to happen next.”