National Aquarium Reports Robust Economic Impact for Period Including Pandemic

Despite COVID-19 closures, the Aquarium has recovered to pre-pandemic visitation

According to an independent assessment, the National Aquarium generated more than $1.3 billion in tourism-related economic impact and $109 million in state and local tax revenue over the four-year period ending in 2022 that included the COVID-19 pandemic. The report from travel research expert Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, presents a comprehensive picture of the National Aquarium as a thriving economic driver and a vital anchor institution for tourism within Baltimore City and the State of Maryland.

"Of all the impact studies that Tourism Economics has conducted on behalf of zoos, aquariums, and other cultural institutions nationwide, the National Aquarium ranks among the top institutions in terms of annual attendance and overall economic impacts," said Tourism Economics President Adam Sacks.

"This report reveals several important aspects of the National Aquarium's positive economic impact," said Aquarium President and CEO John Racanelli. "For example, $1 of every $10 of tourism-related revenue in Baltimore is the direct result of a visit to the Aquarium. As Maryland's largest paid cultural attraction, the Aquarium drove $431 million in economic impact statewide in 2022—and that spending supports 3,400 Maryland jobs. We take our role as an economic engine for the city and state very seriously. We will continue to build on our success and serve as an active partner in this community's growth and vitality."

Despite an unprecedented 106-day closure in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, impact numbers reveal that the Aquarium has made a full economic recovery thanks to federal support that helped to offset pandemic-related losses, and a powerful resurgence in visitation post-pandemic as Aquarium guests enthusiastically resumed travel and tourism habits.

"During the height of the pandemic, finding ways to provide relief for hard-hit businesses and nonprofits like the National Aquarium was a top priority, especially in my role as Chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. These organizations mean so much to our cities and towns, and many other small businesses depend on the tourism and economic activity that they generate," said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. "I am distinctly proud that Team Maryland fought for and delivered vital support through several federal programs, like the Paycheck Protection Program and the Shuttered Venue Operators Grants, that enabled the National Aquarium to help lead Maryland's economic recovery and inspire conservation of our natural resources."

The Aquarium's vitality and potential to move the region's economic needle may prove even more critical over the next several years as reinvestment increases for other Inner Harbor strongholds that have yet to recover from pandemic-related impacts. Post-pandemic in 2022, Aquarium visitation once more exceeded 1 million guests, and 90% of guests surveyed reported that the National Aquarium was their primary reason for visiting the Inner Harbor.

"Maryland is proud to be the home of the National Aquarium, which generates billions in revenue and each year attracts more than a million visitors to Baltimore," said Maryland Governor Wes Moore. "The National Aquarium serves as one of the most prominent tourism and educational destinations in Maryland, and our administration will work to make sure it continues to succeed as we move forward with our vision of economic prosperity for the entire state."

Here in the Inner Harbor throughout 2023, the Aquarium will continue work on enhancements to its external campus that will lead to the 2024 debut of an innovative, floating wetland experience that's accessible to all. While these improvements unfold, the Aquarium will continue to provide critical STEAM and conservation-driven education programs to more than 100,000 students each year, preserve aquatic habitats and species through hands-on conservation action projects throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and lend its voice in support of critical conservation legislation that guarantees a secure future for animals, people and our planet.

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