Greene County saw a 16 percent jump in tourism spending last year, which area leaders said shows the impact of new events and improved facilities, with more coming soon.
A new report by the consulting firm Tourism Economics said that Greene County’s tourism industry generated $47 million in state and local taxes and more than $766 million in sales at local businesses and sustained 8,373 local jobs in 2017.
Greene was one of 17 Ohio counties that attracted the most visitors and ranked fifth for most sales revenue from tourism in southwest Ohio. About 219 million people visited the state in 2017, spending an estimated $35.2 billion, according to the report.
Hamilton and Montgomery counties garnered the most economic benefits from tourism, followed by Warren, Butler and Greene counties, according to the report. Tourism is growing in Greene County as more large events are being hosted there, said Kathleen Wright, executive director of the Greene County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Wright pointed to Hamvention, which was held in the county for the first time in 2017 and attracted about 30,000 visitors, and the National Science Olympiad, which was held at Wright State University. Other factors increasing tourism in Greene are more hotels in Beavercreek and Xenia and the bike trails.
Wright said more than 1 million people use the trails every year, and many of those are from other states.
“We had a lot of military reunions and car shows. I think just all of it together really added up,” she said. “I do see the potential for more growth and revenue coming in the years.”
Tourism is an important element to the overall economic development strategy in the City of Xenia, according to City Manager Brent Merriman.
“Tourism and recreation-related amenities are specific components of our broader economic development strategy,” Merriman said. “These types of economic drivers are not the answer, per se, but they are valuable — and growing — components of our diverse economic base.”
The city recently saw the completion of a downtown safety project, which was aimed at creating better thoroughfares for pedestrians and bicyclists. In addition, an 88-room Hampton Inn and Suites on Progress Drive is set to open next month.
“We believe that our local businesses are taking advantage of the increase in tourism, especially on the trails,” Merriman said.
Xenia is also home to Athletes in Action, which attracts up to 90,000 visitors a year, Merriman said.
“With future expansion plans to add the Wooden Family Fieldhouse, the number of unique visitors to their campus is projected to triple. So for us, youth athletics is a major tourism draw for economic development as well,” he said.
Southwest of the city sits Caesar Ford Park, which was once home to the Blue Jacket outdoor theater. The park was recently reopened to the public after being closed for several years.
Gretchen Rives, spokeswoman for Greene County Parks & Trails, said there are plans to add a concert venue and attract popular musical acts for Caesar Ford Summer Fest.
“We hope to make it a destination event three times a year,” Rives said.