May 5, 2023 - News

Inside Cleveland's new tourism master plan

If you light it up, they will come. Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Destination Cleveland has big plans to bolster perceptions of Northeast Ohio and grow tourism.

Why it matters: The organization's strategic plan looks to get tourism back to its pre-pandemic level in 2019, when it generated a local economic impact of $9.7 billion.

By the numbers: Some 16.1 million visits were made to Cuyahoga County in 2021, a 17% increase from 2020 when the county saw a 30% drop in visitation and an economic impact of just $7.1 billion.

Yes, but: The 2021 figures are still below the record 19.6 million visits Cuyahoga County saw in 2019.

  • Though it has yet to release tourism numbers for 2022, Destination Cleveland says hotel occupancy is up 13% so far in 2023, compared with the first four months of 2021.

State of play: Destination Cleveland's plan includes a lighting installation that stretches from Public Square through Playhouse Square and a citywide mural program for local artists. Both projects are aimed at generating shareable visuals on social media.

Zoom out: Post-pandemic tourism campaigns have varied nationwide. Last month, Minneapolis launched an ad campaign to break the city's crime stigma in the wake of George Floyd's killing.

  • The "Boston Never Gets Old" campaign emphasizes the historic city's tech innovation. Philadelphia's tourism strategy focuses on local favorites rather than famous attractions like the Rocky Statue.

The big picture: Cleveland's tourism campaign coincides with other major local developments, including the city's plan to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in private capital and government grants to connect downtown to North Coast Harbor.

  • Playhouse Square is continuing its $16 million "Dazzle the District" renovation project by installing new theater marquees that will debut in September.
  • The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame plans to break ground on its $100 million expansion this year. The 50,000-square-foot addition is expected to be completed in late 2025 and feature a larger exhibit hall and an indoor concert venue.

What they're saying: "After three years, travel is back," David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland, said Wednesday.

  • "We are focused on working with residents and industry businesses to attract visitors and help them discover authentic Cleveland experiences that take them even deeper into our neighborhoods."

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