Ohioans ‘eager to travel’

TROY – These are the days of the road trip, which brings with it lots of good news for Miami County, said Leiann Stewart of the county’s Visitors and Convention Bureau.

Stewart, the bureau’s executive director, talked about the county, its tourist attractions, its promotions and how things are looking up after the quiet days of COVID-19 restrictions during a State of Tourism presentation Sept. 15 in Troy.

In a discussion highlighted by statistics, videos and photographs of offerings from distilleries to museums, dining, downtown shops and sleeping in tents on the Great Miami River, Stewart told public officials and others about the increase in visitors to the county since the recession of 2008-2009.

The Visitors and Convention Bureau was established in 1991, has three full-time employees and is overseen by a 12-member board of directors. It is funded primarily by the county 3% lodging tax paid by those staying in local hotels.

The bureau is a destination marketing organization promoting the area throughout the state, regionally and nationally, Stewart said.

Last year, she said, in Miami County:

  • Visitors generated $194.7 million in direct sales, which generated $336.5 million in total economic impact (the two previous years were 2019 with $193.4 million in direct sales and 2020 with $157.5 million)
  • Saw 3,478 jobs sustained by tourism
  • Experienced tourism that generated $22.4 million in state and local taxes, saving households in the county more than $540 each.

Those statistics Stewart said came from a study through Tourism Economics.

A key for the county is Ohio has always been a drive state and people locally live within a one-day drive of 70% of the population. “Road trips are popular and they have increased since the pandemic,” Stewart said.

While COVID affected travel the last couple of years, the threat now is not as high. Instead, impact is seen from higher gas prices and inflation. Travelers looking to save money may not be spending as much in stores or restaurants and, in some cases, are cutting back on the number of nights of a stay.

“They are really eager to travel. They want to get out, to explore new places, they just may not be spending as much time,” Stewart said.

Business and group travel have been slower to recover but showing an increase. International travel isn’t expected to recover until 2025, Stewart said, citing the U.S. Travel Association.

Travel and tourism have changed considerably in the past decade with a move toward more hands-on experiences and wellness tourism, made popular during the pandemic with parks programming and expanding outdoor recreation opportunities.

As means of communication have expanded, so have the ways of spreading the Miami County message. For example, the bureau has worked the past couple of years with bloggers and influencers with a positive experience so far, Stewart said.

The bureau also is working to spread the word locally about what it does. Stewart said she is willing to make presentations about the bureau, tourism and related information.

More information on the bureau can be found at www.homegrowngreat.com

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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