Hotel occupancy rates in Springfield continue to rise, and the new statistics are giving officials the confidence to say that local tourism has undeniably rebounded.
Tourism already accounts for $326 million annually in Clark County, and that figure likely will rise with a new report showing that Springfield’s hotel occupancy rate is up 6.6 percent from this time last year.
“We had known our hotel occupancies were trending up. We’ve been saying anecdotally that tourism has rebounded,” said Christopher Schutte, director of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The latest data from Smith Travel Report provides the proof they’ve sought.
“Everyone was reticent to put a ‘tourism was back’ label on it a couple of years ago,” Schutte said. “But, the recovery has really taken hold. We are willing to say it’s absolutely back.”
Getting someone to spend the night in one of Clark County’s 1,200 hotel rooms is considered an economic boon.
On average, Schutte said, someone who stays the night here will spend $308 in the community compared to $140 by someone who makes a day trip.
All three categories of hotels — upscale, midscale and economy — are experiencing occupancy increases locally, Schutte said.
Clark County Commissioner John Detrick didn’t expect the rate to increase as much as the report reflects.
“I quietly said, ‘Yes!’” Detrick said.
“Every dollar we get in here is a dollar we don’t have to raise,” he said.
The increased occupancy rate also means hotels are able to collect more revenue per room, Schutte said, and local rates have jumped 3.5 percent.
Nearly five years after the onslaught of the worst recession in recent history, people are still budget conscious, he said, but “they’re absolutely spending money on travel.”
Even though 50,000 cars and 20,000 trucks pass through Clark County daily on Interstate 70, the real driver behind the increase, according to Schutte, is an uptick in conferences and corporate training being held locally — which count as forms of tourism, he said.
Detrick also credited regular events at the Clark County Fairgrounds with playing a role.
Weekday occupancy rates at Springfield hotels have increased by 10.3 percent as a result, according to Smith Travel Report.
“This year, it’s just taken off like crazy,” said Becky Krieger, general manager of the 120-room Courtyard by Marriott in downtown Springfield.
The opening of Clark State Community College’s nearby Hollenbeck Bayley Creative Arts and Conference Center, or HBC, has siphoned some of the Courtyard’s banquet business, Krieger said, but the HBC also is bringing in people who need hotels.
“In the long run,” she said, “it’s a win. We’re all in this together.”
Springfield’s overall occupancy rate is experiencing a sharper increase than those of surrounding cities. The occupancy rate in Columbus is up just .1 percent, according to the new report, while Fairborn’s rate is down 2.5 percent and Dayton’s rate has slumped 6.6 percent.
“It’s hard to say exactly what’s impacting their results,” Schutte said. “I don’t know if we can draw too much from it.”
But, he added, Springfield has managed to take convention business from competing areas.
The CVB last year launched a push to attract such business to what it calls the National Road Convention District, with the new HBC as its focal point. The district also includes the Clark State Performing Arts Center, the Courtyard and the Heritage Center of Clark County, all within yards of each other.
“Things like free parking don’t sound like a big deal,” Schutte said, “but they are a big deal.”
By the numbers
1,200: Number of hotel rooms in Clark County
6.6: Percent increase in the local hotel occupancy rate
$308: Average amount spent in a community if a person stays overnight