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Experience Columbus' 2020 State of the Visitor Industry: Third Quarter Report

The tourism industry remains steadfast to outlast the spread of COVID-19

The tourism industry remains steadfast in its efforts to outlast the spread of COVID-19 according to the state of the visitor industry report from Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission.

“2020 has been anything but predictable, but I’m proud of how the hospitality community has come together throughout this pandemic,” said OSAE Member Brian Ross, Experience Columbus president and CEO. “While numbers continue to be lower than we’d like to see, we’re focusing on the bright spots, like John Glenn Columbus International being among the first airports in the world to achieve GBAC STAR™ Accreditation for its cleanliness. I’m confident that our city’s tradition of collaboration means we will come out of this stronger on the other side.”

Looking ahead, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission booked future business accounting for 25,044 room nights, including Firehouse Expo. In a new two-year agreement, scheduled for September 2021 and 2022, Firehouse Expo in Columbus will be the first time Firehouse World and Firehouse Expo will be held together so attendees can better train and exchange information. With 6,500 attendees apiece, Firehouse Expo 2021 and 2022 will have $4.2 million and $4.8 million in direct visitor spend, respectively.

"We are excited to have been awarded eight championships from 2022 to 2026, including men's basketball first and second rounds," said Linda Logan, Greater Columbus Sports Commission executive director. "With a perfect combination of universities and hotels, a walkable footprint and collaborative community approach, our city has established itself as an ideal location to host NCAA student-athletes, coaches, media and fans for championship events."

From Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2020, the STR report shows that all key performance metrics decreased.

Reports from the Office of City of Columbus Auditor Megan Kilgore show year-to-date bed tax collections are down 53 percent, or $8.8 million, over the same period the year prior. This vital funding supports not only Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, but also the Greater Columbus Arts Council, nearly 40 health and human service organizations, the Affordable Housing Trust and Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.

Since the public health order limiting mass gatherings, 252 groups scheduled to meet in Columbus have canceled, representing 294,848 total rooms and an estimated direct visitor spend of $243 million. In the third quarter, 18 groups rescheduled their events for 2021 to 2026, representing 33,000 room nights and $23 million in direct visitor spend.

Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission have had a total staff reduction of 34 percent since March. Now, the organizations are restructuring to ensure ample focus on the visitor experience heading into 2021. Knowing that health and safety will continue to be top priority whether a visitor comes from out of state or our own backyard, ensuring the highest quality of service for each trip-taker is crucial to restarting the travel economy.

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