Mar 21, 2024 - News

How Cleveland became The Land of tourism for 2024

Collage of Caitlin Clark a solar eclipse and Roman Reigns.

Big-time events. Photo: David Berding/Getty Images; Justin Sullivan/Getty Images; Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In about two weeks, Cleveland will kick off a series of big tourist events this year, including the NCAA women's Final Four and a total solar eclipse.

Why it matters: Those events, along with the Pan-American Masters Games, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction, WWE SummerSlam and more are expected to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors to town and generate more than $150 million throughout 2024.

What they're saying: "What we tried to do during the pandemic was position ourselves to be a destination city coming out of it," David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, tells Axios.

  • "Everything going on in 2024 is a huge boost to that. It will be one of the biggest years the community has seen in terms of size and scale of major events in decades."

Between the lines: In January, both Travel & Leisure magazine and The Points Guy included Cleveland on their annual lists of best places to travel in 2024.

By the numbers: Destination Cleveland expects 2024 to surpass 2019's record 20 million visits to Cuyahoga County both in terms of visits and hotel occupancy.

  • The group says visit growth to Cleveland has outpaced the national average each of the last eight years.

The intrigue: The tourism organization launched its strategic plan for the April 8 eclipse more than a year ago, aimed at making it more than a four-minute event for an estimated 200,000 visitors.

Plus: Destination Cleveland expects the economic impact of the women's Final Four — running April 5-7 — to surpass the initial estimate of $25 million thanks to the surge in popularity of women's college basketball.

Flashback: The excitement is reminiscent of 2016, when the Republican National Convention, NBA Finals and World Series all took place in Cleveland, Gilbert says.

What's next: He points to the city's $230 million lakefront plan, as well as upgrades to the Rock Hall and Playhouse Square as components of Cleveland's long-term tourism strategy.

  • Gilbert says tourism interest will be "the core differentiator to move from a city where the population is stagnant to a region that is experiencing continuous growth."
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