By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A shaky summer. April’s riots mean Baltimore’s image is taking a big hit. Hotels and restaurants across Baltimore are still feeling the impact. But despite the negativity surrounding the city, Baltimore was picked to host a major conference in 2016.

Rick Ritter has more on a weekend they hope can revitalize Charm City.

We’re talking thousands of people over a four-day stretch. Many say this is what it will take to help put Baltimore back on the map.

Stomach turning and unimaginable, April’s riots left a trail of devastation throughout Baltimore–a lingering impact that’s still being felt months later.

“It’s a big hit to the hotel industry as a whole,” said Steve Nyitrai, Hotel Brexton.

Hotel occupancy was down ten percent in June compared to last year; restaurants were down between 10 and 15 percent because of reduction in local tourism–income General Manager Andrew Labetti with Embassy Suites says it’s tough to make up for.

“It’s hard to say you’re going to get it back this year, but you have to make adjustments to how you sell and what your strategy is,” said Labetti.

With some still hesitant to visit the city, the National Urban League hopes to put Baltimore back in a positive spotlight. The nation’s largest community-based civil rights organization hand-picked Charm City for its annual conference in 2016.

“When you have that many people coming back into the city, it shows the rest of the country that Baltimore is back open for business,” said Labetti.

A four-day session bringing in an economic impact of millions.

“It’s a huge convention, a huge win for us,” said Tom Noonan, Visit Baltimore. “Four million dollars, 6,000 room nights, 13,000 people, and it’s an important platform for our city.”

Labetti says it’s weekends like this that rejuvenate the entire city.

“The riots are kind of in our rear view mirror,” he said. “That’s a huge step to show the country that people want to do big events in Baltimore again.”

By this time next summer, we’ll have our presidential candidates. Visit Baltimore says it expects both of them to speak at this conference, drawing even more people to the city.

Visit Baltimore says the economic impact from the convention is estimated at exactly $4.2 million. It will take place August 3 through August 6.

Rick Ritter

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