Total tourism spending in Clark County jumped slightly more than 14 percent in 2017, an increase of about $22 million since a similar study was conducted two years ago.
The report, produced by Tourism Economics, pegged the economic impact of tourism in Clark County at $417.2 million and argued the industry supports slightly more than 4,500 jobs. The study provides statistics for counties every two years, said Chris Schutte, director of the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The report estimated Champaign County’s tourism impact at about $54 million.
“This gives us a defined metric to point to to see if our investments are paying off,” Schutte said of efforts to draw more visitors to the area. The report’s estimates are based on several sources including local lodging tax data, hotel metrics and information from the Ohio Department of Taxation, according to Tourism Economics.
The report also showed the industry provides about $25 million in state and local taxes, Schutte said.
Tourism spending in Clark County was almost 14 percent higher compared to a similar study two years ago, according to the report. The local growth in tourism spending outpaced the state’s growth of 12 percent as well as Southwest Ohio’s gains of 13.3 percent, according to the report.
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Total tourism spending has grown steadily for several years. Similar reports for 2013 and 2015 showed tourism spending at about $368 million and $395 million, respectively.
Schutte attributed the improvements to several factors, including an improving economy and efforts by the CVB to promote more local events.
“We’ve really invested in the past couple years in our digital presence,” Schutte said.
Some of the improvement can be attributed to the economy, said Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association. But she said more families are prioritizing travel as a way to spend time with their families and gain new experiences. Visitor spending in Ohio was listed at about $35.2 billion in 2017, up $5.2 billion since 2013.
“It’s projected to continue to elevate,” she said of tourism’s statewide economic impact. “It’s basically not only the economy but it’s a lifestyle choice.”
She said the fact Clark County’s growth outpaced the state and the region is an indication their marketing efforts have been effective. Among other improvements, the Clark County CVB retooled its website earlier this year with the goal of promoting local attractions and making the site more user-friendly.
“The fact Clark County is growing at a faster rate says a lot about the work that’s being done and the branding that’s being done there,” she said.
Springfield doesn’t have the same kinds of attractions as larger cities in the state so it relies more on activities at venues like the Champions Center Expo. Schutte estimated as many as 40 to 50 percent of the area’s visitors funnel through the Clark County Fairgrounds for various events, for example.
The area also attracts visitors to venues like Frank Lloyd Wright’s Westcott House, the Springfield Museum of Art and the Hartman Rock Garden. Schutte said the CVB has also been able to attract new events in recent years, including the Miss Ohio pageant.
The next step, he said, is to develop additional space for larger conventions as those events become more expensive in cities like Columbus. Local officials have also discussed the possibility of building attractions like a youth sports complex to draw students and their families throughout the year.
“That to me is really the next level for Springfield,” Schutte said.