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Silver lining—Columbus is primed for a post-COVID comeback

Silver lining—Columbus is primed for a post-COVID comeback

Lori Schmidt

There is a light at the end of the tunnel for Central Ohio. Turns out, Columbus may be better positioned than most cities to bounce back after a series of dramatic tourism dollar losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

That’s the stats-based argument made by Experience Columbus in a recent report.

“There is no doubt that 2020 has been a rough year, but Columbus is resilient,” said Brian Ross, Experience Columbus president and CEO. Experience Columbus is a marketing organization for the Columbus region. “The incredible creativity shown by our partners during this time of uncertainty has been inspiring and we are confident that Columbus will come out stronger on the other side.”

It’s true; there is a giant crater from which Columbus has to emerge. Research company Tourism Economics found the Columbus metropolitan area lost more than 47,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry from February through April of 2020, while Columbus City Auditor Megan Kilgore reported the city made 45% less in taxes off visitors’ hotel stays than a year ago in that same February through April time frame. 

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Case in point, 171 groups that were scheduled to meet in Columbus in 2020 canceled their plans without rescheduling them for later in the year. That cost the Columbus region an estimated $207 million. 

However, moving forward, there are several factors in the city’s favor. As Americans are still wary of long-distance travel, they are increasingly comfortable with car rides, with 69% willing to make a trip in their vehicle—and Columbus is within a one-day drive for more than half the U.S. population. Experience Columbus found that 72% of Columbus’ visitors have come in their own car. 

In addition, visitors to the area often know someone here. 

“Already, 55% of all visits to Columbus are for those visiting friends and relatives, which is higher than the U.S. average, and these people tend to stay longer and spend more money,” stated Experience Columbus in their report. 

Finally, Ohio has a statewide mask mandate in place, and travelers are 61% more likely to visit a destination where masks are required.

Read more about Experience Columbus’s “Live Forward” campaign here.

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