Ohio Travel Association Updates
A Glimpse at What's Happening to Support You and Your Business
Throughout the pandemic, OTA board and staff have focused on supporting businesses in the Ohio travel economy. Guided by a strategy developed in early April by a taskforce of industry members, our work has evolved, but helping businesses navigate murky waters continues to be our top priority. Here’s a glimpse at just some of things we are continuing to do as a result of the pandemic and its fallout:
Monitoring – Through industry surveys and tracking secondary research, OTA continues to focus on better understanding traveler expectations, behaviors and sentiments. Updates on opportunities and challenges for attracting both leisure and business travelers are shared weekly, and we also summarize key findings in a one-pager so you can see at a glance how the market is shifting.
Informing – As opportunities and issues arise, we make sure the industry has the information it needs. In addition to posting updates online and sending weekly eClip summaries, OTA has hosted nearly a dozen free informational webinars, plus developed two targeted Travel Marketing Webinar series that bring you the latest and most relevant best practices for reaching customers. So far this year, we have hosted three out of six webinars in the 2021 series, including one focused on how you should adjust to pending cookie regulations which will drastically change your digital marketing. This week, we also hosted Longwoods International for an update on travel research, but also on how to interpret this data into actionable items.
Supporting – Our Travel Talk calls twice a month have been a great way to hear what’s on the minds of businesses and travel professionals. This week, we talked extensively about the personal stresses that the pandemic and the economic impact have created, as well as the workforce challenges. These conversations are casual and open to anything you may want to discuss. Hundreds of you have also reached out to us with questions, to discuss ideas or to serve as a sounding board, and we have so appreciated this opportunity to help you.
Championing – With regulations eased, our conversations in this area have shifted to workforce challenges and the need for more economic relief given the $14.9 billion loss in traveler spending since the pandemic began. We continue to work with our partners and many of you to tell this story. We are awaiting rules from the EDA and the state on several new funding opportunities, and we’re also working with OHLA on new proposals for assistance. Related to the workforce issues, we are working on a proposal for a statewide industry web portal that demonstrates the value and availability of both frontline and career jobs in the industry.
While we continue doing these things as a result of the pandemic’s impact, our “normal” work continues, and we have been able to return toward implementing some of the strategies developed by the board pre-pandemic. Here are just a few of the things OTA board and staff are working on right now:
Epic Group Travel Experiences – Since late-2018, OTA has facilitated innovation labs with more than 300 national tour operators, as well as destinations and attractions in more than 12 states. Recognizing that group travel experiences rely on multiple partners acting in harmony, these hands-on workshops and conversations resulted in the development of best practices for all sectors of the group economy. The work being done is transformational, and it dives into adjusting business models, marketing strategies and experience development for all kinds of groups with the changing expectations of travelers top-of-mind. During the pandemic, we continued to meet with these partners virtually and adapted our best practices for a post-pandemic environment. Using what we have discovered as the foundation, we are currently working with three creative industry teams representing all sectors of the industry to develop a way to recognize exceptional group experience through a designation program - Epic Group Travel Experiences. This is one-of-a-kind work, and we are excited about sharing it with you very soon. Industry participation in developing standards and your feedback is the most important part of this project, so stay tuned.
Ohio Conference on Travel – We shall celebrate the state tourism conference in person in Newark, Oct. 6-8. Chaired by Dan Moder of Explore Licking County, with Randie Adam from Cincinnati USA leading the educational efforts, we are creating a lineup of activities like no other.
RUBY Awards – Led by Amanda Davis with Visit Grove City, the RUBY Awards is returning with a simplified nomination form, new and streamlined entry categories and an even greater sense of purpose. This awards program gives you the opportunity to tout your work to key stakeholders and higher-ups. Details will be available soon, and the entry deadline has been moved to August.
Heartland Travel Showcase – Cleveland, here we come! Chaired by Tiffany Gerber from Holmes County Chamber, Heartland Travel Showcase will be held Feb. 4-6, 2022 in Cleveland. This event provides an opportunity for buyers of the group travel product to meet directly with hotels, destinations, attractions and others who want to book group business. This show is compact and affordable, and our tour operators are pre-screened so that every one of them is a potential buyer. Learn more, and register here. If you’d like to have a conversation, please contact Janet Johnson, OTA Deputy Director, at email@example.com.
Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy – Our amazing OTLA classes of 2020 and 2021 are wrapping up their sessions this month. Since January, the OTLA class of 2021 has been meeting virtually up to three times a month. Although we certainly have all wished to meet face-to-face, the virtual format has brought us all closer together, and we have had some insightful and engaging discussions. The Class of 2020 joined us virtually in April, as their in-person academy was cut short by the pandemic. We will celebrate both classes at the Ohio Conference on Travel. Claudia Plumley of Great Lakes Publishing and Debbie Robinson of Cambridge/Guernsey County CVB are co-chairs and have worked incredibly hard to keep our new and emerging industry leaders on track to graduation.