Tourism impact nears $400M in Clark County

An improving economy and better marketing were factors that pushed the economic impact of tourism from about $300 million in 2010 to nearly $400 million last year, according to Clark County officials.

A recent report from the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau showed the economic impact of tourism in Clark County has slowly but steadily risen over the past decade. That has led to more stays in local hotels and more revenue for Springfield and other local entities, said Chris Schutte, vice president of destination marketing and communications for the Chamber of Greater Springfield.

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The tourism industry treaded water statewide during the recession before 2010, he said. But local entities have worked together more closely to attract overnight stays and market the county’s attractions at the same time the economy began to rebound.

“We’re certainly not one of the more populous counties,” Schutte said. “For us to generate $400 million in local impact from tourism, I think that is a noteworthy number.”

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The county receives a report every two years from Oxford Economics that highlights the economic impact of tourism in the county. That report is expected early this summer, and Schutte said he expects the most recent figure to come in slightly higher than $400 million.

Figures provided by the city of Springfield show revenue from hotel tax has roughly followed a similar trend. The city received about $563,000 in revenue from hotel taxes in 2010. That figure continued an upward trend until 2014, when revenue fell from about $842,000 to $815,000.

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In 2017, the city’s hotel tax collections had risen to about $968,000.

Several local entities, including the chamber, visitors bureau, city of Springfield and the Clark County Convention Facilities Authority have worked together to find ways to book more events to draw visitors to the county, said Dean Blair, executive director of the Clark County Fairgrounds.

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The fairgrounds hosted a major powerboat race last year at the venue’s 125-acre lake that drew about 5,000 visitors. And in May this year, the fairgrounds is expected to host Vintage Ohio South, a festival to a spotlight Ohio wines and wineries.

Those events might not have been possible to attract several years ago, Blair said. He also noted a video billboard along I-70 highlights local attractions and the CVB has done a good job of promoting the area.

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“It is the fruit of all of those things combined that are causing that,” Blair said of improved tourism figures. “We are seeing the tip of the iceberg and it will continue to grow.”

Tourism in Clark County is different from some other parts of the state that offer attractions like Cedar Point or professional sports, Schutte said. Clark County has focused more on drawing business travel, bringing families to Wittenberg and Clark State Community College, and leisure travel for attractions such as the Hartman Rock Garden and local antique shows.

He also noted local attractions like the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Westcott House have done a good job marketing their own events, which makes the CVB’s job easier.

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“That’s really the key,” Schutte said. “All we can do is promote it and makes sure it gets out to a larger audience so a huge amount of credit goes to them.”

The visitors bureau is always looking for new ways to market the region, Schutte said, including promoting Clark County with travel bloggers.

“Tourism is about economic development,” Schutte said. “If you help improve the perception of your community, you make it more of a place that not only people want to visit but a place potentially people want to live.”

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