This week marks National Travel & Tourism Week across the U.S., giving us an opportunity to reflect on the enormous positive impact that the industry has on our businesses and residents every day throughout Summit County. This is our local visitor economy!
With nearly 19,000 jobs and $1.1 billion in economic impact supported by Summit County’s hospitality industry, most of us probably have a neighbor or friend who benefits from visitors to the community.
We are extremely fortunate to have entrepreneurs and public leaders who see the importance of nurturing the quality of life for our residents, which in turn provides the wonderful experiences for visitors to the area. These champions of growth are channeling their energies to enhance our travel and tourism inventory and the associated economic development it represents.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau is governed by a board of directors, comprised of dedicated volunteers who think passionately, strategically and tactically to help improve the visitors’ experience. The directors also give guidance to a staff that is driven with desire and a focused direction to leverage resources and to implement well-executed sales and marketing efforts. These efforts are supported by a new brand strategy and a plan clearly aimed to increase visitation to the area, which increases the economic footprint left behind by the visitor.
Records were set in 2012 by the Akron-Canton Airport, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, Lock 3 and the Akron Zoo. Other partners raising the bar in the delivery of the best in their field to create memorable moments for families include: the Akron Marathon, Canal Park Stadium, Bridgestone Invitational World Golf Championship and the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby. These organizations are recognized not only in our hometown, but across the nation. As they grow their market share, this increases the positive impact they have on their employees, hotel rooms, restaurants, retail shopping, tax base and the supply chain that provides their products and services.
Hotel occupancy is on the rise, the pace of bookings at the convention center is accelerated and the ancillary industries are seeing increased cash through their registers. This takes place without taxing the infrastructure of the community, since these visitors don’t require schools, public utilities or social services. Visitors simply come to our community, spend their money and return home to tell stories of the positive experience that they had while here. The equation is straightforward — visitors’ dollars equal new dollars for the local economy.
New and continuing business developments within Akron and Summit County are often connected to a hospitality component. Developers understand the importance of creating more than just a building. They help create an experience for the employees and their families that captures a portion of the visitor dollar. Area residents have their own chance to contribute to the vitality of our visitor economy by recommending the area to host a meeting for their trade association, corporate event or group — supporting local employment and tax revenue.
Through our Partnerships in Motion program, we are doing our part to nurture collaboration, innovation and reinvested back into our community. Numerous efforts are under way to provide unique immersion and thematic packages. As the desire for creating memories for individuals, couples and multi-generational families continues, many people want something to tweet, a posting for Facebook or a picture for Instagram. It is usually an experience or a picture from a trip, often in Summit County, helping to communicate the depth and breadth of our Greater Akron.
The expansion of the digital age appears to have no boundaries, yet the innate desire to meet face-to-face will not cease. This evolution gives us the opportunity to stay on the cutting edge, allowing meeting and event planners and travelers to make their destination decisions via several of our new initiatives: digital calendar of events, digital concierge service, expanding social media efforts and an encompassing new brand strategy.
As the sun sets over the Cuyahoga Valley, we appreciate the opportunity to share the compelling reasons for visitors to come here. The reasons are many, just look around. And when visitors come, they are delighted by what they find.
Visitors know our area as Greater Akron and Summit County; we know it as our backyard. To visitors, employees are a work force; while to us, they are our neighbors and friends. Visitors spend their money and demand little more than the exciting experiences we offer — and that is why the “visitor economy” is significant to this place we call home.
Mervis is the president and chief executive of the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau and the John S. Knight Center.