BALTIMORE -- The city and Maryland are hosting a convention this week that officials hope will mean a dramatic increase in area tourism.
About 3,200 members of the National Tour Association, considered North America's primary domestic tour trade group, are meeting in Baltimore through Nov. 13.
The group includes about 700 tour operators from the United States, Canada and Mexico, 400 people from groups such as convention bureaus and tourism offices and about 2,100 representatives of hotels, restaurants and attractions.
Convention-goers will be shown Baltimore's attractions, and local tourism officials plan to stress easy access to other places in Maryland, such as Annapolis and St. Michaels.
Wednesday will be devoted to sightseeing, with 11 different tours, including both Baltimore and regional trips, officials said.
By showcasing the area's attractions to the NTA, Maryland officials hope to increase the amount of tourist dollars spent in the state, which the U.S. Travel Data Center said contributed $4.7 billion to Maryland's economy last year.
Sandra Weiner, who heads the city's Office of Tourism and Promotion, said a 1986 survey by her agency showed that more than 7 million people visited the downtown area in the summer and spent about $650 million. That was a 10 percent increase in people and a nearly 30 percent increase in spending.
Weiner said Baltimore's group tour revenues were up 12 percent in 1986 from the previous year.
"As a result of this convention, we expect the rate of increase to double in just a few years. We particularly want an increase in 'overnight' business," she said.