State Tourism Director: Ohio, Union County Ideally Situated for Tourism Growth
When it comes to tourism, Ohio and Union County are at “a competitive advantage,” Ohio’s tourism director told about 45 guests Wednesday at the Union County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Annual Tourism Partners Breakfast at the Honda Heritage Center.
“We’re less than a day’s drive for 60 percent of the country,” TourismOhio Director Mary Cusick said. “That’s a competitive advantage. We’re not Steamboat Springs or New York City, but we’re an easy-to-get-to getaway.”
And Ohio offers a diversity of events and destinations, like Union County’s Covered Bridge and Bluegrass Festival and All Ohio Balloon Festival, a variety of agritourism attractions and other local sites such as the Honda Heritage Center. Lynn Johnson, Heritage Center coordinator, said that about 40,000 guests have visited the museum since its opening in 2015. She added that Honda has hosted more than 130 community tours that take visitors through the Heritage Center and auto plant.
“Since we don’t have one big thing to talk about, we take all that diversity and make it a competitive advantage,” Cusick explained.
Cusick presented statistics that show Ohio’s growing popularity. Visits grew from 181 million in 2011 to 207 million in 2015. “That’s enough to make Ohio a top 10 tourism state.” TourismOhio projects 234 million visits by the end of 2018.
From 2010 to 2015, visitor spending increased from $33 billion to $42 billion. Visitors average $110 a day for day trips and $354 a day for overnight stays. This spending supports 420,000 jobs, up from 412,000 in 2014
She added that 41 percent of visitors are Ohio residents, while the largest number of out-of-state travelers come from the Detroit, Chicago and Pittsburgh metropolitan areas.
Cusick also spoke at the CVB’s Tourism Breakfast last year, when she unveiled the state’s new tourism brand and marketing campaign: Ohio. Find It Here.
The campaign focuses on Ohio’s diversity and abundance of events, attractions and activities and how visitors value the experiences they enjoy here with family and friends. “It’s not about what you do, but who you do it with,” Cusick said.
Plus, Ohio visitors like to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. That may explain why respondents in a state travel survey ranked “small towns/villages” and “rural farming areas” third and fourth, after “lakes/rivers” and “friends/relatives” on what they experienced on their trip.
Local Tourism Continues Growth
Also at the breakfast Tina Knotts, CVB tourism and marketing director, presented a report on Union County tourism for 2016, including:
Lodging taxes collected from guests by local hotels, motels and bed and breakfasts have increased 103 percent since 2010. This includes tourists as well as business travelers. The lodging tax supports CVB operations.
Bus tours to Union County continue to increase and the CVB met with 19 bus tour operators at the Heartland Travel Showcase in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The CVB launched the Uptown Trolley, which shuttles guests from motels to uptown restaurants. From May to October, the trolley had 537 riders.
The Covered Bridge Bluegrass Festival will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. The 2016 festival was supported by a $10,000 Ohio Art Council grant.
In May, the CVB will open a new welcome center in Uptown Marysville. It will be named Union Station 1820, a tribute to Union County’s founding in 1820 and a reference to the role railroad stations played as the community’s first welcome centers.
Mary Cusick, center, director of TourismOhio, spoke Wednesday at the Honda Heritage Center at the Union County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (CVB) Annual Tourism Partners Breakfast. With her are, from left, Lynn Johnson, coordinator of the Honda Heritage Center; Megan Colwell, CVB president; Tina Knotts, CVB tourism and marketing director; and Heather Moller from Honda.
Mary Cusick, director of Tourism Ohio, shares state tourism statistics with guests at the Union County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (CVB) Annual Tourism Partners Breakfast at the Honda Heritage Center.