Fewer travelers to Miami County cause decline in lodging tax

Like many Ohio counties, stays at hotels in Miami County dropped; visitor bureau continues to promote

TROY – The Miami County Visitors and Convention Bureau has continued its work to promote the county and its offerings despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s important because tourism is an integral part of the county’s economy, said Leiann Stewart, executive director of the bureau.

She pointed to research by Tourism Economics that reported visitors to Miami County spent $193.4 million in 2019 and about 6.8 percent of all private jobs in the county were sustained by tourism.

The vast majority of the bureau’s funding comes from the county’s 3 percent lodging tax, which declined 51 percent from March through September.

Despite its challenges, the bureau shifted its focus early on in the COVID-19 crisis, Stewart said. She recently discussed the bureau’s year and its projected budget for 2021 with the county commissioners.

“It is extremely important that we continue to promote Miami County, so as people begin to feel confident traveling again, we haven’t missed a beat,” Stewart said.

The bureau itself was faced with a loss of revenue. Lodging properties were hurt “tremendously” by the shutdown earlier in the year and continue to be affected by fewer travelers due to COVID-19, Stewart said.

“We want travelers to continue planning for that next trip to our area, so when they are ready to take the next step, they have all the information they need for a fun and memorable experience. And, we need to let them know that Miami County is safe, and we take all safety protocols seriously,” she said.

The initial focus was on supporting local businesses by promoting their online, carryout and curbside pickup offerings during the shutdown via the bureau website and social media.

“We wanted to help get information to Miami County residents so they could support local business so doors could stay open. In addition, our marketing on social media during this time centered around Miami County’s outdoor recreation assets and what they offer where people felt safe and could social distance,” Stewart said.

As people began to venture out, marketing has been done locally and regionally to try to draw travelers within a 200-mile radius of the county. Research by Longwoods International and Miles Partnership has shown road trips will lead the recovery, she said. That research showed that U.S. travelers on their next vacation:

-57% want to dine at a restaurant

-52% want to go shopping

-50% said they would like to recreate on a body of water

-34% want to participate in outdoor activities and adventures

-30% want to go hiking or cycling

-20% would like to visit a museum or art gallery

-17% would like to visit wineries, breweries and distilleries

“Our communities have so much to offer in all of these areas, so these are the main things we have been promoting over the last six months and will continue to focus on as we move into 2021,” Stewart said.

So far this year, the bureau released a 2020-21 visitors guide in August that can be found in the county and beyond as well as on the bureau’s website at www.homegrowngreat.com.

The bureau also created a variety of itinerary ideas – a day or weekend - for residents and visitors to help them explore the county. The itineraries can be found at https://www.homegrowngreat.com/find-the-perfect-day-trip-or-weekend-getaway-in-miami-county/. These itineraries highlight anything from shopping and brewery/winery trips to art and history, girl’s/couple’s trips and family getaways.

Downtowns in the county have been able recently to hold events such as First Friday theme evenings and will offer their shops and restaurants for the holiday season. The county park district has been able to offer its outdoor venues and its preparing for its holiday lights at Lost Creek Reserve, Stewart said.

Contact this contributing writer at nancykburr@aol.com

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