Tourism spending in Ohio continues to grow and many area counties are driving that growth with billions of dollars in sales from hotel stays and at attractions.
Ohio saw an estimated 207 million visits from travelers last year, up from 200 million the previous year and 181 million in 2011, according to TourismOhio. The state tourism office said visitor spending has increased by 27 percent in the past 5 years, since 2011.
The number of tourism supported jobs also has climbed steadily, reaching 420,000 last year, up from 412,000 in 2014.
Tourism in Montgomery County generated just over $1.2 billion in 2015, a 5.1 percent increase from 2014 and above the state’s 4.9 percent growth, according to TourismOhio.
As the economy has grown, Montgomery County has experienced moderate tourism revenue increases over the past few years, as it has increased by 8.9 percent since 2013.
“We have a number of world-class tourist attractions in Dayton,” said Jacquelyn Powell, CEO of Dayton Convention and Visitors Bureau. Powell said the addition of the fourth hangar at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force could continue to drive additional visitors to Dayton and increase tourism dollars spent here.
Warren County, which markets itself as Ohio’s Largest Playground, and Greene County, home to several large amateur athletic tournaments, saw increases in revenue in 2015.
Warren County’s tourism revenue increased by four percent, while Greene County’s rose by 3.9 percent. Miami County, home of the Strawberry Festival in Troy, dipped 0.3 percent in 2015.
Attractions like the Dayton Art Institute, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, Carillon Park and the Air Force museum help bring tourists to Montgomery County.
“There’s a lot that can make up a very full day here in our community,” Powell said. “Mom can go to the art institute and dad can go to the Air Force museum if they want. The number of types of attractions that we have here is impressive.”
Tourists in Montgomery County spent $392 million on retail last year and $350 million on food and beverages. They spent $117 million on lodging, according to TourismOhio.
Tourism supports one in every 13 jobs in Montgomery County, as the industry employs 21,211 people. In Warren County, it supports one in every nine jobs; in Greene County it supports one in every 10 jobs; and in Miami County it supports one in every 14 jobs.
Southwest Ohio averaged a 5.7 percent increase in tourism dollars last year and a big part of that was from Warren County, which had 11.8 million visitors to attractions like Kings Island, the Great Wolf Lodge and several professional sporting events.
“Tourism is the number one industry in all of Warren County, and we are thrilled with the steady growth of tourism here,” said Phillip Smith, president & CEO of the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Visitors spending money on our main streets and in our attractions create and sustain jobs, and maybe most importantly, lower the tax burden for our residents.”
Smith said there is a lot that Warren County has to offer and each year the attractions improve themselves.
According to the agency, overnight travelers typically spend three times more than day visitors. The county has enjoyed strong growth in both the leisure travel segment and sports travel. Smith said the county hosted 105 sports events that drew 185,000 people and resulted in more than 70,000 room nights sold in local hotels and motels — an economic impact of $40.8 million for that segment.
Last year, WCCVB was named the top National Sports Tourism Organization of the Year by the National Association of Sports Commissions.
The 2015 data does not reflect any impact of TourismOhio’s new marketing campaign. The “Ohio: Find it Here” campaign is the agency’s first new marketing effort in two years, and the first under the leadership of tourism director Mary Cusick.
TourismOhio received a funding boost to $10 million a year in the state budget several years ago, which will be up for renewal or review by the next budget cycle.
Reporter Ed Richter contributed to this story.
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