The Maryland Tourism Development Board (MTDB) has awarded $271,923 in matching grants to Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County (VAAAC) for fiscal year 2016 that ends June 30, 2016. The allocation is second only to Ocean City, which received $479,008 in matching grant dollars.
VAAAC President & CEO Connie Del Signore says the FY 2016 grant award is a reflection of the strategic advertising and marketing decisions her organization made in FY 2015. “Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County performed outstandingly in the three major categories MTDB considered in calculating this year’s grant awards. After investing more advertising dollars year over year in the right media outlets in the right markets, we saw a significant increase in the number of overnights visitors spent in our destination.”
VAAAC spent $930,873 on advertising and marketing in FY 2015, a 19.36% increase over the $639,050 it spent in FY 2014. The increase in advertising expenditures was second only to Ocean City, which showed a 29.92% increase in advertising expenditures over FY 2014. Combined with a recovering economy and the efforts of its full- and limited-service hotels, VAAAC’s advertising efforts helped yield an 11.67% increase in hotel sales taxes, from $14,372,411 in FY 2014 to $15,151,292 in FY 2015.
The formula MTDB used to determine the allocation of this year’s $2.5 million in matching grants dollars incentivized Maryland’s 23 counties, Baltimore City and Ocean City to focus their marketing efforts on increasing length of stay/overnights in the destinations. To that end, it encouraged Maryland’s destination marketing organizations (DMOs) to sponsor multi-day events and support the Maryland Office of Tourism Development’s major events through cooperative marketing efforts. Here again, VAAAC excelled.
Del Signore says her organization provided $10,000 in sponsorship for Military Bowl 2015 and spent an additional $30,000 to market the event in metro Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Virginia and DC. The marketing efforts for the December 28 U.S. Naval Academy vs. Pittsburgh Panthers game paid off.
Even with Navy participating in the 2015 game at their home venue, the economic impact nearly matched the $17 million regional impact of the 2014 Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech Military Bowl at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. Fifty-two percent ($9.2 million) of the 2015 Bowl’s regional expenditures took place in Anne Arundel County between December 26 and December 28. In the three years the Bowl has been held in Annapolis, the event has had a direct regional economic impact of $47 million.
Del Signore says two Pittsburgh to BWI Marshall flights were sold out on December 27. All Wanna Get Away Southwest low fare seats from Pittsburgh to BWI were sold out on December 27. Annapolis City hotels reported an estimated 50% occupancy on December 26 and a 95% occupancy on December 27 and 28. BWI/Anne Arundel County hotels reported a 25% occupancy – according to them, a good number for those dates. Del Signore says Main Street restaurants relayed they were fully booked with reservations immediately following the Bowl game. Some Annapolis shops anecdotally reported sales were up as high as 75% or more over the two-day period.
While the Military Bowl represents a major commitment on the part of VAAAC, it is by no means the only event the organization has directly supported through its marketing efforts. The U.S. Sailboat and U.S. Powerboat Shows, the Maryland Renaissance Festival and the Annapolis Film Festival are among some of the other major events VAAAC has marketed over the years in its efforts to boost overnight stays in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County.
Del Signore credits two pieces of legislation for helping to make the favorable FY 2016 matching grant possible: The Tourism Promotion Act of 2008 and the Anne Arundel County Tourism and Economic Development Promotion Act of 2009. The Tourism Promotion Act links Maryland’s tourism industry performance to funding eligibility. The law stipulates that if sales taxes generated by tourism goods and services increase at least 3% over the previous year, half of the increase above the 3% can be added to tourism funding. Passage of the law also guaranteed new funding: It mandated that MTDB award at least $2.5 million dollars (up from $1.5 million) in annual grants to local DMOs beginning in fiscal year 2011.
The Anne Arundel County Tourism and Economic Development Promotion Act of 2009 set the percentage of room tax revenues awarded to VAAAC at 8% beginning in fiscal year 2012 and raised the percentage incrementally each subsequent year, capping at 17% in fiscal year 2014. Prior to passage of this legislation, VAAAC received a flat $1 million of the $17 million in county room tax revenues collected annually, regardless of how the market performed.
Del Signore says both pieces of legislation have given the VAAAC more marketing dollars to work with. Her operating budget has grown from less than $1.5 million in FY 2009 to $4 million in FY 2016. According to Del Signore, “A steady increase in funding year over year has enabled us to be more proactive. We’ve invested in a great team that’s executing an innovative marketing plan in smart ways. We’ve hired a Chief Marketing Officer and devoted more resources to our sales team. We’ve stepped up our media outreach domestically and have increased our investment with Capital Region USA (CRUSA) in our ongoing commitment to grow the international market.” Del Signore says these efforts benefit not only VAAAC members and partners, but the local economy as well. “Thanks to the help and foresight of state, county and city lawmakers and the Maryland Tourism Development Board, we’re putting these dollars back into the community for the benefit of all.”
Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County is a nonprofit, membership-based destination marketing organization that generates revenues for the local economy by promoting Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay to leisure and business travelers across the country and around the world.