2021 State of the Visitor Industry: First Quarter Report
A report from Experience Columbus
In conjunction with the 38th annual National Travel and Tourism Week, this year recognizing the Power of Travel and the industry’s role in bringing back our vibrant communities, restoring the economy and rebuilding our workforce, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission have released their first quarter 2021 State of the Industry Report and plans to kickstart the travel economy in the coming months.
During the first quarter of 2021, Columbus hosted a total of 27 conventions, trade shows and sporting events. Sports have continued to be the main demand driver, with major events including the Ohio Valley Region of USA Volleyball Girls Winterfest Tournament and Boys Winterfest Qualifier with 1600 and 1400 attendees respectively, the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Elite Eight and Regional Finals with 950 attendees total, and the Ohio High School Athletic Association Boys State Ice Hockey Championships with 901 attendees.
"It's fitting that the release of our first quarter report aligns with National Travel and Tourism Week, as we know our industry will play a crucial role in revitalizing our community following COVID-19," said Brian Ross, Experience Columbus president and CEO. "We're proud of the impact the tourism industry has locally, as it generates $7.6 billion in direct visitor spending and positively benefits economic and human development, Columbus' image and quality of life for our residents. We're looking forward to a strong recovery and capitalizing on Columbus' strengths as we continue to drive visitation to local businesses from visitors and residents who are eager to get out and explore following a tough year."
From Jan. 1 to March 31, 2021, the STR report shows that all key performance metrics decreased, but remain on par the average in the competitive set:
Year-to-date bed tax collections through March 31 totaled 4.1 million, down 33.6 percent, or approximately 2 million, over the same time period the year prior, according to reports from the Office of City of Columbus Auditor Megan Kilgore. These funds support not only Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, but also cultural and arts programs, social services, affordable housing programs and the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.
Looking ahead, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission booked future business accounting for 35,412 room nights.
"We are proud that our first quarter included the NCAA Women’s DII Elite Eight and Regional Finals in another successful safety bubble at the Greater Columbus Convention Center," said Linda Logan, Greater Columbus Sports Commission executive director. "Our partners were phenomenal in ensuring player and spectator safety through rapid testing, new entry protocols and more. At the same time we were able to virtually gather to celebrate girls and women in sports for the annual Women's Sports Report, this year featuring a keynote address by the venerable Erin Andrews."
Since the public health order limiting mass gatherings, 306 groups scheduled to meet in Columbus between 2020 and 2022 have canceled, representing 387,390 total rooms and an estimated direct visitor spend of $319 million. Another 34 groups have rescheduled their events for a later date between 2021 and 2027; these groups represent 60,529 total rooms and an estimated $41 million in direct visitor spend.
According to the Longwoods International Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 34, 88 percent of Americans have plans to travel in the next six months, with priority focus on road trips and domestic travel. As previously reported, Columbus is well-positioned to receive these travelers due to its central geographic location and the traditional make-up of its visitors.
To capitalize on this opportunity and encourage travelers to consider Columbus as they begin planning their summer trips, the destination marketing organization is billing the coming months as the Summer to Live. Visitors and residents can get inspired by the energy of the city with themed itineraries for every interest, activations and other incentives. Check out videos highlighting the people and places that make Columbus so special, curated itineraries and exclusive offers for overnight visitors here.
"Our city has truly embraced the Live Forward spirit over the last year, showing how relentless optimism and big ideas can help weather a global pandemic," said Sarah Townes, Experience Columbus vice president of marketing. "Now, we're excited to reveal to a wider audience all that's possible when you Live Forward by sharing the thrilling opportunities available to all types of travelers in Columbus."
Prior to COVID-19, the travel economy in Columbus supported 78,600, or one in every 12 jobs. Now, to support local businesses who need to rebuild staffing numbers as patronage grows, Experience Columbus is touting the many opportunities available to those who choose careers in tourism and sharing job openings and hiring fairs throughout the city. Plus, Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) classes are continuing virtually to help prepare hospitality workers for visitor interactions.