Aug 11, 2022 - Business

Tourism spending dollars down due to lack of overnight travelers

A crowd at the 2017 Rock on the Range concert. Columbus is looking to boost overnight tourism via major concerts, events and conferences. Photo: Jason Squires/Getty Images

More and more tourists are visiting Columbus when the sun's out.

  • If only we could just convince them to stay the night.

Driving the news: Experience Columbus, the city's tourism bureau, recently reported its 2021 and early 2022 visitor data.

  • Columbus had 42.7 million total visitors in 2021, a marginal decrease from pre-pandemic 2019 levels, while overall tourism spending was down $1 billion last year.

Why it matters: Tourism supports tens of thousands of retail and hospitality jobs, fueling further growth in America's 14th biggest city.

State of play: The vast majority of visitors come to see friends and relatives or attend a special event, per the bureau. Just 5% traveled for business reasons.

  • Nearly a million more people came here for day trips last year compared to 2019, but the number of overnight visits dropped by 13%.

Threat level: That's a problem, the bureau's CEO Brian Ross told Columbus Business First, because those staying overnight spend more money.

  • "That is a big drop in direct visitor spending," Ross said. "We need the overnight visitors to come back."

What's next: Experience Columbus is hosting two 2023 conventions that may boost local business travel: the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting, and the very meta Professionals Convention Management Association's Convening Leaders conference.


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