Report: Warren Co. tourism fueled by Kings Island, casino has $1.7 billion impact

Credit: STAFF

Credit: STAFF

Warren County tourism shattered previous bests last year, with the industry accounting for $1.7 billion in economic impact, according to a recently released study.

The report said tourism’s impact in the county that’s home to Kings Island and Miami Valley Gaming jumped 17% from 2021, the last year the study was conducted, according to the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

What visitors bureau President and CEO Phillip S. Smith called an industry that locally “is bigger, stronger and more impactful than ever before” has seen steady job growth through the years and brought in $51.4 million in local tax revenues in 2023, the report by Tourism Economics and TourismOhio shows.

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

“When tourists come to Warren County they pump (money) into the system, whether that be hotel taxes, sales taxes,” county Administrator Martin Russell said.

“They’re obviously going to these businesses and keeping them — whether that be a restaurant, a gas station, an outlet mall — they’re keeping those businesses afoot.”

The county government cannot specifically track tourism tax revenue, “but we continue to see the rise in sales tax as we continue to grow our sports, leisure and tourism market,” Russell said.

“That benefits us from a tax base perspective because those businesses are maintaining their property taxes (and) we’re getting additional sales tax,” he added.

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Tourism job growth

Warren County tourism supported 13,567 jobs last year. That’s about 9.2% of its private workforce and an increase of more than 1,900 compared to 2013 numbers, said Scott Hutchinson of the local visitors bureau.

Job numbers for specific tourism sites were not included in the report. But Kings Island — the county’s “flagship” attraction, Hutchinson said — announced earlier this year it needed to fill more than seasonal 5,000 positions.

Great Wolf Lodge accounts for 600 full-time jobs and Miami Valley Gaming 345, said Matt Schnipke, county development director.

The 2023 job figures make Warren County the second-most tourism-dependent county in Southwest Ohio, the visitors bureau said. Those jobs accounted for $403.3 million in wages in 2023, generating $217.1 million in federal, state and local tax revenue, according to the report.

Tourism Economics is a global business that compiles travel data and TourismOhio is the state’s equivalent of a travel and tourism bureau.

The study said the top spending categories were recreation, retail, transportation, lodging, and food and beverages.

Attendance figures for individual attractions were not released. But aside from Kings Island, Great Wolf Lodge and Miami Valley Gaming, the Cincinnati Open pro tennis tournament, Caesar Creek State Park, the Warren County Sports Park, the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival and the Ohio Renaissance Festival “are routinely some of our largest tourism draws year after year,” Hutchinson said.

Kings Island’s latest roller coaster, Orion, delivered more than 1.5 million rides last year, according to

Variety of attractions

The Cincinnati Open, which in 2023 agreed to remain in the county for at least 25 more years, annually draws nearly 200,000 from 39 countries, its website states. This year’s tourney is scheduled for Aug. 11-19.

“It is, hands down, one of our biggest and most important attractions or events here in the Warren County community every year,” Hutchinson said.

“The vast majority now of ticket sales are going to people who are from outside of the area,” he said. “So, from a tourism standpoint, it moves the needle in a huge way.”

While many attractions are family-friendly, Miami Valley Gaming has offered entertainment to an older clientele since it opened 2013 after Ohio legalized gambling, providing a tourism option not previously seen in the county, he said.

“Miami Valley obviously caters specifically to that kind of grown-up scene — that more adult market, which is a huge thing for us, and we’re really seeing that more and more,” Hutchinson said.

The convention and visitors bureau’s opening of the Warren County Sports Park in 2020 also has been a boost to local tourism, Hutchinson said.

The “sports travel market has really taken off,” he said.

The 128-acre site on Ohio 741 attracts “soccer teams, baseball teams, softball teams, most of which are coming from out of town to compete in tournaments there.”

Last year, the park had an economic impact last year of $100 million, according to the visitors bureau. It hosted 51 events, drew more than 1.2 million and generated more than 93,500 overnight stays in county hotels, the bureau said.

Tourism tax revenue

The federal, state and local tax revenue generated by Warren County tourism in recent years includes:

•2023: $217.1M

•2021: $199M

•2020: $149.3M

•2019: $167.7M

NOTE: The study was not completed for 2022.

Source: Tourism Economics

Tourism-related jobs

The number of Warren County jobs linked to tourism has grown by nearly 3,000 in the past 24 years.

•2023: 13,567

•2013: 11,666

•1999: 10,600

Source: Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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