The surrounding area welcomed 10 million people from 45 states and 16 countries in 2017 alone, brining in $1.9 billion in annual sales locally. About 31 percent of that was spent on retail, 20 percent on recreation and another 19 percent on lodging. Lodging alone accounted for $158,964,267.
President of Shores and Islands Larry Fletcher said the many visitors supported nearly 14,000 jobs in the two counties.
The industry’s success isn’t restricted to this area, though.
Director of TourismOhio Matthew MacLaren, Esp., who was a guest speaker at the address, said in 2016 the industry raked in quite the pretty penny, with $43 billion spent by visitors throughout the state.
Locally, Fletcher said the area plans to have a more specialized focus on who is attracted to the area.
“Rather than trying to be all things to all people, let’s be the right things to the right people,” he said. “This year’s campaign is going to be highly targeted, right down to the individual person. Our main audiences are families, couples and friends and we’re going to send the right message to the right people at the right time.”
Fletcher likened the industry to a relationship, saying it’s about the “moment experienced” and the “bond that’s made.”
“We’re going to attract them. We’re going to court them. And then we’re going to ask them for their commitment,” he said. “We define commitment as a room. Book a room. Stay awhile.”
This year, the industry will welcome many improvements, including a new outdoor waterpark aspect for Kalahari Resorts focused on the youngest visitors.
In one of the more anticipated events of the summer, Cedar Point will debut it’s 18th roller coaster — Steel Vengeance. The coaster will send riders more than 200 feet above the park, then take them on a 90-degree initial drop down to the earth, with almost 30 seconds of airtime, “the most on any roller coaster on earth,” according to Cedar Point’s website.
The amusement park also will unveil a 158-room expansion to Hotel Breakers and 25 on-site “ultimate RV sites.”
“Tourism is strong. Very strong,” Fletcher said. “And it’s only going to get better.”