Dayton tourism suffers. ‘Daycations’ could be the answer.

Tourists usually come to Dayton because it is the birthplace of aviation. But right now, cars are the region's best tourism hopes. Because of COVID-19, people aren't flying and taking normal vacations, and visits to some major local attractions have declined significantly, like at the National Museum of the Air Force, which has seen foot traffic decline 70%. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Tourists usually come to Dayton because it is the birthplace of aviation. But right now, cars are the region's best tourism hopes. Because of COVID-19, people aren't flying and taking normal vacations, and visits to some major local attractions have declined significantly, like at the National Museum of the Air Force, which has seen foot traffic decline 70%. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Tourists often come to Dayton because it is the birthplace of aviation. But right now during COVID-19, cars ― not planes ― are the region’s best hopes for tourism.

Because of the coronavirus threat, people aren’t flying and taking vacations like normal, and visits to major local attractions like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force have declined significantly.

The museum has seen about 30% of of its normal attendance numbers during the summer months, and it is welcoming fewer long distance travelers, said National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Director David Tillotson.

Most local residents aren’t comfortable taking weekend getaways at local hotels, according to a recent survey, and statewide hotel demand has deteriorated.

A new exhibit titled “Flying the President," which features memorabilia flown aboard Air Force One from the FDR to Trump administrations, opened Friday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Visitors can see playing cards and a gin rummy score card from the Truman Administration; President Kennedy’s cigar box from SAM 26000; memorabilia from President Nixon’s 1979 visit to China; candies from the Eisenhower, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations; and a lunch menu from one of President Trump's flights on Air Force One. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
A new exhibit titled “Flying the President," which features memorabilia flown aboard Air Force One from the FDR to Trump administrations, opened Friday at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. Visitors can see playing cards and a gin rummy score card from the Truman Administration; President Kennedy’s cigar box from SAM 26000; memorabilia from President Nixon’s 1979 visit to China; candies from the Eisenhower, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama administrations; and a lunch menu from one of President Trump's flights on Air Force One. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Last year, tourism in Montgomery County pumped an estimated $2.3 billion into the local economy, but this year has been very different. Last year, people who visited Montgomery County spent about $1.5 billion, according to data from Tourism Economics. Tourism in the county supported about 22,046 local jobs.

A recent tourism campaign focused on “daycations” encourages people to take short day trips to visit local attractions, and a new app has launched offering information about local events, amenities, restaurants and hotels.

“Local residents can be tourists in their own backyard by taking advantage of all that is available in Dayton and Montgomery County,” said Jacquie Powell, president and CEO of the Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau. “A daycation can give residents and travelers the break and getaway they’re looking to experience.”

“In addition, by visiting our local attractions, outdoor recreation sites, restaurants and retail outlets, residents can also help reinvigorate the economic vitality of our community,” she said.

ExploreCoronavirus: Dayton area hotels hurting as occupancy plummets

The CDC says traveling increases the chances of getting and spreading COVID-19, and countless people have cancelled vacation plans.

Many events, festivals and conventions that attract large crowds to the region also have been postponed or cancelled, including the Vectren Dayton Air Show, Dayton Celtic Fest, Dayton Hamvention and the Dayton Jazz Festival.

An estimated 90,000 people visited the Dayton Celtic Fest last year, and the air show had nearly 50,000 visitors.

Dayton Celtic Fest was held on July 27-29, 2018 in downtown Dayton. Celtic music and dance, beer and food are the stars of one of Dayton's signature festivals of summer. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER
Dayton Celtic Fest was held on July 27-29, 2018 in downtown Dayton. Celtic music and dance, beer and food are the stars of one of Dayton's signature festivals of summer. TOM GILLIAM / CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Winter Guard International, which was cancelled, usually leads to 8,800 hotel room stays, with a direct economic impact to the region of about $28 million each year.

The NCAA First Four Tournament, which also was axed, brings about 25,000 fans, players, coaches and media to Dayton, directly pumping about $4.6 million into the economy.

Many attendees, vendors and event participants stay overnight in local hotels. Also, in normal times, weekend getaways are fairly popular in the region.

Hotel demand across the state has softened and remains far below normal levels, said Joe Savarise, executive director of the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association.

For the week ending Aug. 1, the average hotel occupancy level across the state was 46.5%, he said, which compares to a rate of 75.3% during the same week in 2019.

In the week ending July 18, the reported hotel occupancy rate was 47.8%, Savarise said.

The hotel occupancy rate does not include hotels that are temporarily closed, and if their rooms were counted, the actual rate probably would be in the mid-30% range, at the highest, he said.

Marriott at the University of Dayton.
Marriott at the University of Dayton.

Premier local attractions like the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force say they are seeing much less foot traffic.

After closing on March 15, the museum reopened July 1. About 32,836 people visited the museum last month, which was down from nearly 105,500 in July 2019.

The good news is that there is pent-up travel demand among local residents, according to a late June survey by Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau.

After coming out of shelter-in-place orders, about one-third of respondents said their first travel activity would be visiting family and friends who live in the greater Dayton area, the survey found.

The second largest share of survey-takers (18%) said their first travel activity would be to explore Dayton-area attractions and amenities. Most survey takers said they were not willing to consider a weekend getaway at a local hotel.

Overwhelmingly, the survey found, cleanliness and safety protocols were respondents’ top consideration when deciding whether to visit a local museum, restaurant, sports venue or other attractions.

The visitors bureau’s daycation campaign targets the leisure market within a driving distance of about 200 miles from Dayton.

The Convention & Visitors Bureau has created more than a dozen Daycation itineraries that cover the arts, aviation, “Dayton on a Dime,” indoor and outdoor recreation, anniversary weekends, family fun and more, said Powell.

The bureau also launched the free “Visit Dayton” app that can be downloaded onto mobile devices. The app offers an events calendar, visitors guide, daycation itineraries and lists county attractions, arts and cultural venues, hotels, outdoor recreation, restaurants, sports, transportation and other information.

“We are so fortunate to have many incredible, inexpensive ways for individuals and families to experience Dayton and Montgomery County,” she said.

Dayton tourism numbers have dropped because of COVID-19, but Miami Valley residents can take in the sites around Dayton like Wilbur and Orville Wright statues that are watching the river fountains at Deeds Park in Dayton Thursday August 20, 2020. Jim Noelker/Staff
Dayton tourism numbers have dropped because of COVID-19, but Miami Valley residents can take in the sites around Dayton like Wilbur and Orville Wright statues that are watching the river fountains at Deeds Park in Dayton Thursday August 20, 2020. Jim Noelker/Staff

Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER/STAFF

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force attendance has declined sharply

Visitors in July 2020: 32,836

Visitors in July 2019: 104,488

Tourism is big business in Dayton and Montgomery County

Visitors to Montgomery County spent $1.5 billion in 2019, which generated $2.3 billion in business sales when including indirect impacts, according to Tourism Economics.

Tourism in Montgomery County generated $284.8 million in tax revenues in 2019, with $140.6 million accruing to state and local governments.

A total of 22,046 jobs were sustained by visitors to Montgomery County in 2019. This included 16,409 direct and 5,637 indirect and induced jobs.

Source: Tourism Economics and Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau

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