Marketing the Ohio Tourism Experience - Innovative Visitor Engagement

Experience Columbus Uses Scooters as Mobile Visitor Centers

Scooters on High Street

Have you ever been to a conference in another city and wished there was a friendly local on every corner to help you find the cool points of interest?

A mobile visitor center is typically a wrapped van or trailer, featuring many of the amenities of a brick and mortar visitor center. But as I started looking into ways Experience Columbus could engage our visitors on-site, I realized there are many limitations with these full-sized mobile visitor centers. They’re expensive to purchase and maintain, limited in where you can place them, and they must be stored when not being used. One day while riding my scooter to work, I realized it was the ideal combination of mobility, accessibility, visibility, and affordability...

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Capital Projects Budget Implementation Summary

Ohio Tourism Assets Receive State Construction Funding

A breakdown of all projects that will receive funding under the $4.2 billion Capital Projects Budget, including county-by-county and project summaries.


Ohio’s $582 Million Wine & Vineyard Tourism Industry Assesses Damage Caused By Polar Vortex

Reserves from record harvests in 2012 and 2013 will meet consumer demand, ensure stable pricing

Ohio Vineyard(4/10/14) - Wine producers are working to identify the extent of damage caused by 30 days of historic lows across the state as farmers and industry associations partner with state agencies to identify solutions, mitigate the damage, and move the industry forward. Ohio wines have emerged as a major draw for thousands of tourists and wine enthusiasts from across the region, generating direct tourism-related expenditures of nearly $100 million.

Current estimates, as reported by The Plain Dealer on March 24, indicate at least $12 million in damage to vines has occurred at Ohio vineyards, resulting in a significantly reduced harvest forecast in 2014. As vines recover and return to full production, producers may experience several years of diminished harvests. Donniella Winchell, Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association assures that the industry was well-prepared for a harsh winter and remains optimistic about continued growth prospects for the industry.

“While this is a difficult viticultural situation for farmers, record harvests in 2012 and 2013 ensure the industry is well-situated to handle demand...Read More>>

2014 Ohio Travel Guide Now Available

2014 Ohio Travel Guide 4/4/14 (Columbus) - The Office of TourismOhio has released the 2014 Ohio Travel Guide in both print version and as an iPad App, available in the Apple App Store and on iTunes. This free publication features captivating photography and provides information for sports & recreation seekers, family fun buffs, connoisseurs of arts & culture, and history & heritage enthusiasts. The Guide focuses on more than 3,000 listings featuring attractions, recreation, shopping, dining, visitor services and lodging, organized by the state’s five travel regions. Free copies are available for distribution at your location.

CLICK HERE to order your free copies.

It’s Time For A Quarterly Performance Conversation With Your Employees

10 Tips To Prepare For Evaluating Employee Performance

Performance Evaulation

Just like you would never want an employee to approach an interaction with a guest unprepared, managers of Ohio’s tourism industry should never go into a performance review conversation without adequate preparation.

An off-the-cuff approach will result in missed opportunities for feedback and improvement. Employees in need of coaching and performance management may walk away from the conversation with the impression their performance is adequate, while top-performing employee may feel discouraged that you forgot to note a key achievement. Either way, you’ll be left scratching your head.

Invest time before your conversation and follow these 10 Tips For Exceptional Employee Performance Evaluations.

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Obama Issues Executive Order To Overhaul Overtime Regulations

New Rules To Be Issued In Fall, Likely To Impact Tourism & Hospitality in 2015

LESI Partners3/18/14 (Washington DC) - President Obama issued an Executive Memorandum on March 13 directing the Labor Department to modify overtime rules. If implemented, the change will result in the expansion of required overtime payments to many Ohio tourism businesses. The proposal would restrict who may be labeled a supervisor and made exempt from payment of overtime. Thousands of managers at many of Ohio’s tourism related businesses, including attractions, restaurants, gas stations, and employees of convention and visitors bureaus across the state, currently... Read More>>

Heartland 2014 Showcases Ohio Group Tour Destinations

Tour Operators, Exhibitors Meet in Toledo to Develop Partnerships


2014 Heartland Slideshow3/20/14 (Columbus) - Ohio tourism businesses were among the 200 representatives from museums, attractions, hotels, and CVBs, from destinations throughout America’s Heartland at the annual Heartland Travel Showcase, presented by the Ohio Travel Association, March 7-9, in Toledo, OH. A recent study by American Bus Association shows groups traveling by bus spent $13.6 billion in the Heartland region in 2012. On average, Heartland attendees report booking approximately $85,182 per business over the last three years, because of matches made at Heartland. “We will definitely see business this year from the show," says... Read More>>

Proposed Regulations Target Ohio's $220 Million Recreational Hunting Industry, 550,000 Hunters - (Duplicate)

3/4/14 (Columbus) -Over half million Ohio hunters may be impacted by recently proposed changes to ODNR regulations, including increased permit fees, county-by-county bag limits, and relaxed rifle restrictions. The Division of Wildlife just held a series of public meetings to gather comments about the new regulations. Added cost may be a factor for some hunters during the 2014-15 season if new rules take effect, particularly a planned increase to Read More>>






Statehood Day: Ohio’s Past and Ohio’s Future

3/4/14 (Columbus)-Representatives of Ohio's historical sites and business community (including several from the tourism industry) gathered at the Ohio Statehouse on Feb. 27 for the 2014 Statehood Day hosted by the Ohio Historical Society, Heritage Ohio, and Preservation Ohio. Statehood Day is an opportunity for attendees to meet with legislators on important history related topics. The 2014 event emphasized the... Read More>>


Proposed Regulations Target Ohio's $220 Million Recreational Hunting Industry, 550,000 Hunters

3/4/14 (Columbus) -Over half million Ohio hunters may be impacted by recently proposed changes to ODNR regulations, including increased permit fees, county-by-county bag limits, and relaxed rifle restrictions. The Division of Wildlife just held a series of public meetings to gather comments about the new regulations. Added cost may be a factor for some hunters during the 2014-15 season if new rules take effect, particularly a planned increase to Read More>>






Tourism Marketing Forum Highlights Ohio, Michigan Marketing Efforts

2/12/14 (Columbus, OH) - A lively public forum between leaders of TourismOhio and Travel Michigan on Feb. 12 highlighted the different approaches of the often rival states in marketing to potential travelers.


The lunch discussion at the Columbus Metropolitan Club was presented by Bob Evans Farms in partnership with Ohio Travel Association and Experience Columbus and featured current TourismOhio Director Mary Cusick in a candid, often humorous conversation with former Ohio Tourism Director and current Visit Michigan Vice President, George Zimmermann.  

Moderated by Experience Columbus CEO Brian Ross, the conversation included background on the challenges both states have faced in the past, a lighthearted exchange on the virtues of regional spot advertising buys versus national ad buys, and future marketing strategies for both states.

Ms. Cusick, a former marketing execu ...


Managing Forward: Developing Job Descriptions

By: JEREMY MYERS, Membership & Communications Manager

Owners and directors of small tourism-related organizations across Ohio very often fall into the trap of believing their business is not large enough or does not have the resources to require the development of written job descriptions for every employee or position.

I hear from OTA members regularly that they and their employees wear many hats. We are so busy, just the thought of writing a description of the specific tasks an employee performs seems overwhelming and time-consuming. In reality, choosing to rely on verbal communication to define job requirements leads to confusion, frustration, and could cost your organization time through inefficiency.

So, what is a job description?

You’ve certainly heard the phrase, but let’s define it. A job description is a plain-language tool that describes the tasks, duties, functions and responsibilities of a position...

Profile of a Partnership: Lake Erie Shores & Islands

By: Melissa Dutton

LESI Partners

Tourism officials in Erie and Ottawa counties know that visitors to Lake Erie’s Shores and Islands don’t pay attention to which county they are recreating in. They realized travelers just want to play on the beach, visit the attractions and enjoy good meals.

"The consumer doesn’t know where the county line is and doesn’t care,” said Joan Van Offeren, executive director of the east bureau of Lake Erie Shores & Islands.

In recognition of how arbitrary the county line was to visitors planning trips to the area, the two county convention and visitors’ bureaus decided in 2007 to join forces. Today, a new entity, Lake Erie Shores & Islands, works to promote the region that includes such major destinations as Cedar Point, Sandusky’s indoor water parks, Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay.

The united effort benefits all parties, added Larry Fletcher, executive director of the west bureau of Lake Erie Shores & Islands. Visitors only have to connect with one entity when planning...


Emerging Leaders Meet, Begin Projects To Build Stronger Industry

Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy Enters 6th Year of Shaping Professionals

Emerging leaders from across Ohio met on Tuesday, Jan. 14 at the Vern Riffe Center for the first Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy of 2014. The class discussed tourism economics and the role of the Office of TourismOhio in marketing the state as a tourism destination. Class members broke into groups at the second OTLA meeting on Feb. 11 to begin working on a group project to benefit the industry.. The assignment encourages class members to explore an issue or opportunity in the industry, develop possible solutions, and present their concept. The assignment is a great way to learn how to manage an industry-based project and drive it forward with the help of colleagues and peers.


Fish Tale: Tourism Industry Seeks Solution To Stop Asian Carp

Eight Expensive and Slow Solutions Presented

Recognizing the importance of Lake Erie to the overall economy, including the $11.5 billion in tourism dollars generated annually in Ohio by visitors to the counties bordering the lake, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, and The U.S Geological Survey continue to study preventative methods to keep the Asian Carp out of the Great Lakes. 

Because the Asian carp is able to out-compete native species of fish such as perch, bass and walleye, the impact on the commercial and recreational fishing industries could be catastrophic, with serious impact on tourist activities, including the 700 registered charter boat captains operating out of Lake Erie. 


Discover Ohio To Go Is Back!

TourismOhio and McDonald's Partner For Second Year

For a second year, TourismOhio and McDonald’s are partnering to increase visits to Ohio destinations during the summer. McDonald’s customers who purchase a large fountain drink from April 28 - June 9, 2014, will receive discounts at featured Ohio destinations. Ohio tourism destinations are encouraged to express interest in participating as one of a limited number of co-op partners. In 2013, Hocking Hills Canopy Tours and Wild Zipline Safari owner Jodi Burroughs saw an increase in exposure and awareness at both locations after participating in the pilot year of the co-operative marketing program.


OTA Members Use Social Media to Engage, Attract

2013 RUBY Award Winners Debbie Stamper and Jenna Dill Discuss Tactics

Gene Strickland likes to compare social media to free kittens.

“Kittens are free, but you have to feed then,” says the assistant professor at Columbus State College. Similarly, social media outlets must be fed information in order to be successful.
To get the most from social media, businesses and organizations need to have a robust, interactive presence, said Strickland.   Ohio tourism industry members who have recently been recognized for their social media prowess agree. Would-be visitors are looking for organizations that will engage them.


Looking for Ways to Increase your Group Business?

Group Tour Media Offers Handbook with Helpful Hints

Group Tour Media offers "8 Keys to Attracting Group Tours: Insights into the Group Tour Industry," a compendium of helpful hints for developing and marketing group experiences.


2013: Ohio Tourism Industry Year In Review

2013 Ohio Tourism Industry Year In Review

The Top 10 Tourism Related News Stories of 2013

Congresswoman Calls Meeting to Discuss Water Quality

OTA Suggests Balanced Messaging

Last week, Cong. Marcy Kaptur called together a meeting of those most involved and/or impacted by Lake Erie and tributary water quality issues.


Things to Think About When Selecting Online Photos


Industry Meets to Discuss Ohio Travel Information Centers

Wrap Up of What Was Discussed and Learned

Thirty-one (31) tourism industry members gathered at the Ohio Historical Society in November to discuss opportunities for Ohio’s Travel Information Centers. ODOT had indicated that they will cease brochure distribution as of 12/31/13, but the Ohio Travel Association, Ohio Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus and the Office of TourismOhio requested time to present some alternatives. These three groups then pulled together a meeting of interested industry members to discuss.


Cusick Hired to Lead TourismOhio

Ohio Development Services Director David Goodman announces Mary Cusick will head TourismOhio.


OTA Welcomes New Intern, Amber Bacon

Bowling Green State University is looking to place junior and senior tourism, leisure and event planning students in internships and/or practicums every quarter. These students are required to complete 3-9 hours per week for 15 weeks for practicum experience and a minimum of 40 hours per week for 15 weeks as an internship. These positions can be paid or unpaid. Students come from all over the state, and many are interested in working close to their hometowns.


Formal Review of Tourist-Oriented Directional Signage Program to Begin Soon

Contact Us with Concerns

Here’s your chance to voice opinion on the Tourist-Oriented Directional Signage Rules administered by ODOT.


New Study Shows It Pays to Take Vacations

The Society for Human Resource Management, in collaboration with the U.S. Travel Association, recently released a study about the use of vacation time and the impact on the workplace. Their findings support yet another reason why travel is important – to our economy and our lives.


New Rules Require Employee Health Care Plans to Treat Mental Health and Medical/Surgical Benefits Equally

Check with Your Health Care Plan Provider to Ensure Compliance

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, group health plans will soon be required to make sure that co-pays, deductibles, caps on doctor visits, etc. that apply to mental health or substance abuse benefits are the same as for those on medical and surgical benefits.


OTA Vision for the Future Focuses on our Powerful Industry

Your Ohio Travel Association board gathered Nov. 6-7 for its annual planning retreat. Although the room only held 26 or so, there was a general feeling that there were many more present. That’s because we spent a lot of time reviewing the OTA membership survey where you voiced your thoughts and opinions, and we also compared general membership responses to board responses to make sure our board fully understands what’s important to you, our Ohio tourism industry partner. There was little variance, which was a great sign that the leaders you elected to represent you and your industry are in touch with what you’re thinking.


Seven Out of Nine TourismOhio Advisory Board Appointments Made in Late-October

Seven tourism industry members were named to the TourismOhio Advisory Board last month. According to the law passed during the 2012 summer, nine members are to be named from specified sectors of the industry, including one representative from each of the following: convention and visitors bureaus, lodging, restaurants, attractions, special events and festivals, and agritourism. Three TourismOhio Advisory Board members serve at large.


General Assembly Passes Legislation to Extend Zoo Levies

Originally capped at 10 years

Today, the House concurred with Senate amendments to allow county commissioners to propose a zoo levy for any number of years, or for a continuing period of time. Previously, the levies were limited to a term of 10 years. The zoo may be operated and maintained by the county itself or by a nonprofit corporation organized to promote the natural sciences.


Future of Travel Report Identifies Changes in Travel Behaviors

Expedia Releases Report that Shows Differences between Generations

We’ve all heard about the differences between generations, and this report identifies some important differences in their travel behaviors. Why is this important? Well, for one thing, the report says that those 18 to 30 years of age are more frequent travelers, for both business purposes and leisure. If you want to capture their buying power, then understanding their travel habits and expectations is vital.


Pat Crow Receives Ohio Tourism Industry's Highest Award

Becomes the 39th Paul Sherlock Award Recipient since 1975

Pat Crow was recognized with the state’s highest tourism industry honor, the Paul Sherlock Award, during the Ohio Conference on Tourism, Oct. 16. The executive director of the Knox County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Woodward Opera House redevelopment project manager, Crow was presented the peer award at the Cincinnati Marriott North, West Chester.


Contact Federal Legislators to Express Your Concern about the Government Shutdown

Sixty-five percent of Ohio’s tourism business are concerned over near- and long-term results on the economy

In its second week, the U.S. government shutdown is impacting Ohio’s economy. Sixty-five percent (65%) of OTA members who took part in a survey about the issue said they are very concerned or somewhat concerned that additional impacts may be felt if the shutdown continues.


OTA Announces Board of Directors Election Nomination Slate

The Ohio Travel Association is proud to present the slate of candidates for the 2013 OTA Board of Directors election. The election will be held at the 2013 OTA Annual Meeting held in conjunction with the Ohio Conference on Tourism on October 17, 2013 at 1:00pm. Register online at http://www.ohioconferenceontourism.com Candidates for the OTA Board of Directors will be available for questions at the Meet the Candidates Breakfast, sponsored by Meredith Travel, October 17 at 8:00am.


New Study Released Shares Best Practices of Using Social Media for Attracting Meetings and Convention Planners

Shares What Works in Promoting Destinations Brands and Helping Boost Delegate Participation

Marketing Challenges International has released a new report, Social Media Marketing for Global Destinations in the Meetings and Conventions Industry, offering strategy tips on the use of social media for the important meetings and convention market.


OTA Brings Together Some of Ohio's Top Funders to Train Industry

Dan Sharpe of the Columbus Foundation, Kathy Blickley from the Nationwide Insurance Foundation, and Kendra Wecker from the Ohio Division of Wildlife shared their tips on Focus on Tourismcreating and submitting proposals that’ll get funded during OTA’s recent Focus on Tourism event, “Show me the Money:Finding & Securing Funds for your Tourism Project", held August 27 at COSI.


Ohio House Oversight Committee Meets to Discuss TourismOhio Updates

Urges Development Services Agency to Appoint TourismOhio Advisory Board

Rep. Mike Dovilla called a meeting of the Ohio House Committee on Policy and Legislative Oversight on Sept. 10 to hear updates on the implemention of TourismOhio-related legislation as a result of Senate Bill 314 passed last year. The meeting was held at Kalahari Resort and Conference Center in Sandusky. More than 45 Ohio tourism industry stakeholders attended to show their support and to share stories on the economic importance of tourism and how TourismOhio has helped build their business.


Ohio Experiences 28% in International Visitation in 2012

Ranks 19th with a 1.2% Market Share

According to the Overseas Estimation for U.S. States, Cities, and Census Regions 2012 report issued by the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, 28% more international visitors came to Ohio in 2012 than in 2011.


Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits Provide 25% Credit for Rehabilitation

Deadline for Applications is Sept. 30

The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program provides a 25 percent tax credit for the rehabilitation expenses to owners and lessees of historically significant buildings. The program is competitive and receives applications March and September.


New Study of Foodies Shows Promoting Culinary Activities Can Pay Off

Almost a Third of Travelers Choose Destinations Based on Eating Opportunities

Conducted by the travel market research firm Mandala Research and sponsored by the World Food Travel Association and other tourism organizations, the study shows that almost a third (30%) deliberately choose destinations based on the availability of activities related to local food and drink, whether it’s a beer or wine festival, a farmers market, or a farm to table experience.


State Sales and Use Rate Increases from 5.5% to 5.75% Effective 9/1/13

Employer Witholding Tax Rate Tables Decrease 9%

Tourism industry members should be aware that changes to the state of Ohio tax code that were included in House Bill 59 will take effect on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.


Adventure Travel Market Study 2013 Released

These travelers are younger, and they intend to take longer trips

Just in time to discuss during our final two Market-Making Forums on Outdoor Recreation and Nature Tourism, an Adventure Travel Market Study 2013 report has been released by the Adventure Travel Trade Association.


National Conference of State Legislatures Discusses Online Travel Company Tax Policies

American Hotel and Lodging Association issues statement of approval

The Executive Committee Task Force on State and Local Taxation of the National Conference of State Legislatures passes a resolution noting that states should pass legislation clarifying their tax laws and requiring online travel companies (OTCs) to remit taxes paid on their retail prices.


New Fall/Winter Ohio Calendar of Events Available

TourismOhio Announces Availability of these Popular Calendars

Tourism industry businesses may order up to 200 copies of the 2013-14 Fall/Winter Ohio Calendar of Events.


Lake Erie Weekly Reports are Available

Provides advisory information, water temperatures, and more

Provided by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, weekly easy-to-read bulletins provide information on whether or not advisories are in place on Lake Erie.


TourismOhio Campaign Results in 15 to 1 Return for Ohio

By Staying Focused on Converting Day Trips to Overnights, TourismOhio's Campaign Works

By focusing on key travelers, TourismOhio achieves one of the highest ROIs in the country through a targeted approach at converting day trips to overnight stays. Director Goodman applauds office for "continued increase in our investment to market Ohio."


Interested in Board Leadership?

Board Members to be Elected at October Ohio Conference on Tourism

At the Ohio Conference on Tourism, OTA members will elect leaders to represent their regions. Learn which seats are up for grabs, and submit your application today.


Supporting the Efforts of the Office of TourismOhio

Members of the newly appointed TourismOhio Advisory Board convened for the first time on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013 from 1-3:00 p.m. at the Vern Riffe Center in Columbus.


Ohio Changes How to Measure a School Year

Creates Flexibility for those Districts who May Support Post-Labor Day School Starts

Last week, Ohio changed the minimum school year from 182 days to a minimum number of hours, and eliminated snow days (and other calamity days). This change provides greater flexibility for school districts to set their calendars, which may be good news for those districts who support a Post-Labor Day School start.


Governor Kasich Attends Fish Ohio Day, Signs Boater Freedom Act

7/11/2013 - Port Clinton, OH Tourism industry members, lawmakers, wildlife officials and media gathered in Port Clinton for the 35th annual Fish Ohio Day, hosted by Lake Erie Shores & Islands. Afterward, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 29, the "Boater Freedom Act", creating guidelines for safety inspections of Ohio watercraft.


Smartphone? Tablet? Laptop?

How are travelers researching and booking travel?

SMARTPHONE, TABLET, OR LAPTOP? Just as many travelers are researching and booking travel on mobile devices (tablets and smartphones) as they are on laptops. This is one of the findings from new research by JiWire.


International Travel to the U.S. Grows 7% in 2012

Canada and Mexico Lead Inbound Markets

A new report from the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries shows international travel represents 7% of all goods and service exports for the United States and details the importance of these travelers to the U.S. economy.


Federal Court Ruling Likely to Impact Viability of Unpaid Internships

Examine your Unpaid Internship Programs to Ensure Compliance

Last week's decision by a Federal District Court ruled in favor of unpaid interns who had worked on the Hollywood film, Black Swan. Guidelines for creating unpaid internships that are in compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act are provided in this news article.


OTA Attends Toledo Zoo Wild Walkabout Opening

Janet Johnson, Ohio Travel Association Deputy Director, and Rich Nachazel, President of Destination Toledo and an Ohio Travel Association board member, gather at the Toledo Zoo for the opening of a Wild Walkabout on May 24.


@Ohiotravel Twitter Feed


OTA Presents to Appalachia Communities on Regional Product Development

Who participates in cultural, historical, and nature-based activities? What drives these travelers to choose a destination or book tickets? OTA helped answer some of these questions, as well as provided recommendations for regional products at an Ohio Hill Country community meeting on May 29 at Burr Oak Lodge.


Ohio Travel Association Hosts Media Relations Event at Columbus Dispatch

The Perfect Pitch: Strategies in a Changing Media Environment

Members of Ohio's tourism industry gathered on Tuesday, May 28 at the Columbus Dispatch for an educational event focused on media relations in a changing media environment. The event was well attended by members of OTA and featured an educational seminar, editorial panel and a focus session on working with bloggers and other key influencers.


Ohio Travel Association Participates in Civic Tourism Discussion

OTA's executive director, Melinda Huntley, joined representatives from Ohio's Main Street Program, Piatt Castle, Ohio Humanities Council, Miami University and Wright State University today to discuss future development of the civic tourism program in Ohio.


Committee Testimony Heard Regarding Online Travel Company Tax Remission

Testimony was heard yesterday during the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Providing testimony in support of the amendment was Matt MacLaren (Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association), Jacob Evans (Ohio Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus), and Dirk Bengel, the GM of the Crowne Plaza Columbus Downtown and Lofts Hotel. The Ohio Travel Association attended the hearing and continues to personally reach out to lawmakers in support of the amendment, including followup responses to committee members.