We asked the new President and CEO of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) about his plans to sell Charm City, and what worked at his last job in Dallas.
Baltimore: What's the first thing you've changed or done differently?
Noonan: We are looking for ways to increase our marketing budget. We need more money to get our new brand and tagline, "Baltimore: Get in on it" in the marketplace, and we need more salespeople to sell the city.
B: What does BACVA stress as the city's strengths?
N: What sets Baltimore apart from the competition is its "walkability" factor and waterfront. In Baltimore, meeting planners do not have to worry about providing transportation for their attendees, and that is a big plus for them. The city center is also 10 minutes from the airport, making travel to and from Baltimore easy. Baltimore's package is quite appealing.
B: Does Baltimore still have an image problem among some convention groups? If so, how do you remedy that?
N: Baltimore doesn't have a bad reputation. It just doesn't have enough of a reputation. People who come to Baltimore love it, but people who haven't been here really don't know what it is all about. We have a great city with a great package to offer visitors—we just have to get our story out.
B: Tell us about an idea that worked great in Dallas that could work here, too.
N: We were successful at taking Dallas on the road to our customers. We would host client events in different cities and bring our top restaurant chefs with us. You can talk about the great restaurants all you want, but nothing sells more than letting clients actually taste the food.
We plan to do the same thing in Baltimore. Over the next few months, we'll be hosting client and media events in Washington, D.C., Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. In sales, you need to find ways to set yourself apart, and this approach works.