July 29--The city's tourism industry grew last year, according to Visit Baltimore's annual report, with 23.9 million visitors spending more than $5 billion in 2013.

The report, which was released Tuesday, found that visitors to Baltimore were up 2.6 percent from 2012, though leisure visits continue to dominate business visits by more than three to one. Tourist spending is up 2.2 percent over the same period.

Hotel bookings are also on the rise, with 370 conventions, meetings and trade shows in fiscal year 2014, helping generate an economic impact of $241 million for the city.

Visit Baltimore President and CEO Tom Noonansaid booking conventions in the city is key for continued tourism growth.

"We've got a great product," Noonan said after Visit Baltimore's annual business meeting held at the Hilton on W. Pratt Street Tuesday. "We need to continue what we've been doing. We need to make sure convention centers across the city are modern and up-to-date for our visitors."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who attended the meeting, said the jobs and tax dollars tourism brings are vital to meeting her goal of 10,000 new families in the city by 2020.

"All of this activity translates into tax revenue that spurs economic development," the mayor said, noting the $629 million visitors to Baltimore contributed in state and local taxes in 2013.

Noonan and the mayor both said the Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, set to open in August, could spur more visits to the area.

mbodley@baltsun.com

twitter.com/michael_bodley

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