Tourism is a billion-dollar business not only in Ohio, but also in Delaware County itself.
“Visitor spending in Delaware County generated $1,158,500,000 annually and $146 million in state and local taxes, supporting 10,838 full-time-equivalent jobs with $244 million in wages,” said Debbie Shatzer, executive director of the Delaware County Convention & Visitors Bureau, on Thursday. She said Delaware County’s tourism numbers are ranked second among central Ohio counties.
The data was from a study conducted in 2013 by Longwoods International and Tourism Economics on behalf of TourismOhio. Visitor spending includes food, lodging, transportation, recreation and retail.
Shatzer, speaking at the monthly Delaware Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon at SourcePoint, said the Convention & Visitors Bureau is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. Earlier this year, the bureau published a new visitors guide and filmed a video about the city’s dining.
Also speaking at the luncheon was Mary Cusick, director of TourismOhio. Cusick said she grew up in Delaware County and was a former Little Brown Jug queen.
In 2015, there were 207 million tourism visits to Ohio, Cusick said. Visitors spent $42 billion, with the average person spending $110 on a day trip, and $354 for an overnight stay. Tourism supported 420,000 jobs. The totals have shown a steady yearly increase since 2011.
Despite the increase, travelers still need to be sold on the Buckeye state. Cusick showed a video where people from Columbus, Chicago, Nashville and Pittsburgh were rendered speechless when asked what came to mind when they heard the word “Ohio.” There were associations with farming, the Midwest, tractor pulls, and Ohio State, which not everyone saw as a positive.
“Ohio can be perceived as tribal and divisive,” to those living in other states, Cusick said, citing the “O-H! I-O!” chant. Or she said residents might say apologetically of Ohio, it’s better than you think.
In developing a new advertising campaign to promote tourism, Cusick said that 73 percent of travelers are seeking experiences instead of material things. Thus, the new theme: “Ohio. Find It Here.”
Cusick showed a commercial where people were at a Cedar Point roller coaster, Hocking Hills, Marblehead Lighthouse and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force; and enjoying Jeni’s ice cream and Rhinegeist beer. A print ad showed an actual couple who got engaged at the Ohio State Fair.
The “Find It Here” advertisements are meant to “inspire and make people both inside and outside of the state feel good about Ohio,” Cusick said.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.