Destination Cleveland Expands Efforts, Announces Collaborative Actions to Reach New Long-Term Goal

May 17, 2018


CLEVELAND (May 17, 2018) - Destination Cleveland, the only organization in Cuyahoga County responsible for growing the travel and tourism industry, announced at its annual meeting today two significant efforts to help the community speak with one voice, thrive together and collaboratively transform from a visitor destination to a destination city.

The first effort expands Destination Cleveland's organizational focus to include the role of destination management for Greater Cleveland, confirming a transition from a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) to a Destination Marketing and Management Organization (DMMO) previewed at the organization's 2017 annual meeting.

The DMMO transition is in support of Destination Cleveland's development and implementation of a Destination City Action Plan (DCAP), the second effort announced at the meeting. The DCAP is the blueprint of strategies and tactics that Destination Cleveland will pursue by engaging other community organizations to ultimately accelerate and enhance Cleveland and its economy.

The impetus for the efforts is rooted in the combination of:

  • a 2017 research study by Longwoods International that showed that those who had seen Cleveland's destination advertising were more likely to consider Cleveland as a good place to live, work, attend college and retire than those who had not seen our advertising
  • the organization's track record for success and
  • the fact that Destination Cleveland is consistently being approached by nonprofits, corporations, small businesses, educational institutions with requests to use Cleveland's brand in their efforts.


The goal of transforming Cleveland from a visitor destination to a destination city was solidified through a year-long discovery process that included a listening and learning tour in 2017 and early 2018. The effort resulted in 100 conversations with more than 400 stakeholders and leaders representing more than 250 organizations. The tour helped Destination Cleveland understand what stakeholders think are the priorities for advancing Cleveland into becoming a destination city and what Destination Cleveland's role is and should be within the community. The process also illustrated the need for Destination Cleveland to work together with a more diversified group of community organizations to better Cleveland and, ultimately, the region's economy. 

DMMO Transition

As it evolves into a Destination Marketing and Management Organization, Destination Cleveland will work more closely with current partners and begin to work with additional civic organizations to better leverage the Cleveland visitor brand and the organization's expertise to impact the economy further.

David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland, shared that many cities use this model to drive synergies and to ensure they are delivering a consistent message and destination experience to non-residents and residents alike.

"A visitor is so much more than just a visitor. They are potential residents, students, investors, etc," said Gilbert. "And while destination marketing changes perceptions and helps attract people, organizations like ours do not do the job of site selection, recruiting students, attracting talent or attracting venture capital. Instead, DMMOs help to improve a city's narrative, which makes it easier for other organizations to do their work. As a DMMO, we will do this by getting more visitors to the city and working with our local partners to provide experiences that deliver value and differentiate Cleveland from other cities."

Destination City Action Plan

Based on the insights from the listening and learning tour, Destination Cleveland identified five themes of opportunity in which the community is asking the organization to use its brand marketing and expertise to further advance Cleveland in becoming a destination city. Those themes are:

1.       COLLABORATE TO DRIVE ECONOMIC SYNERGIES: Working with other economic development organizations and corporations to leverage Destination Cleveland's expertise in changing perceptions and attracting people and companies to the region through both leisure and meetings marketing.

2.       MANAGE DESTINATION EXPERIENCE: Looking at all aspects of a destination's needs and overall development by playing a more significant role in managing the guest experience within the destination. This goes way beyond staffing a visitor center and should consider how tourism affects the experience of residents as well.

3.       INCLUSIVE RESIDENT ENGAGEMENT: Spending as much time communicating with, monitoring and measuring resident satisfaction as Destination Cleveland does with visitors and remaining steadfastly focused on ensuring that the engagement is inclusive.

4.       DESTINATION BRAND MANAGEMENT: Expanding Destination Cleveland's role by partnering with other organizations as it becomes a steward and manager of the city's brand.

5.       ENHANCE BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH BIG DATA: Deepening Destination Cleveland's connection to and knowledge of visitors on the ground, leveraging big data, and modifying existing digital channels such as apps and booking systems for visitors to access upon arrival so they can better manage their own experiences.

Destination Cleveland will ensure focus and action behind these themes as part of the organization's strategic plan. For each of these themes, Destination Cleveland received specific feedback on how to engage with the community, and the organization developed specific plans of actions by launching pilots in partnership with other organizations. (See attached list of pilot projects)

"While Destination Cleveland will remain focused on its mission of changing perceptions and attracting people to Cleveland, there are opportunities to accelerate and enhance our impact on the area's economy," said Gilbert. "We must begin to act as one city with one voice to make Cleveland a destination city." 


In addition to Gilbert's presentation, Dan Walsh, founder and CEO of Citymark and chairman of Destination Cleveland's board of directors, provided an update on the organization's progress toward achieving the goals of the strategic plan it launched in 2017. Developed under the guidance of Ernst & Young's Travel and Tourism consulting team, the plan outlines efforts to drive the attraction of 20 million visitors by 2020. Walsh shared the following metrics as part of his update:

Convention Sales

Destination Cleveland's convention sales team continued to generate increases resulting from ongoing efforts to attract conventions and business-related events to Cleveland. The sales team achieved a 30 percent increase in lead volume and bookings in 2017 over the prior year. 

Marketing and Communications

In 2017, marketing and communications efforts to support the Cleveland brand were bolstered to further change Cleveland's narrative as a place to visit. The integrated efforts reached more than
1.3 billion people through paid advertising, social media, digital outreach and earned media stories.

Destination Development & Community Affairs

Destination Cleveland launched its Experience Dedicated Destination guest experience survey program last year to garner real-time feedback from visitors on ways to improve the Cleveland experience. In the program's first year, the organization collected nearly 1,500 responses per month from guests. The insights gained help measure the impact of the industry and are shared with hospitality partners to encourage collaboration that improves experiences.

Walsh also presented three area residents with awards.


At the conclusion of the meeting, Gilbert called upon the hospitality partners and stakeholders present to add their voice to the year of learning by sharing thoughts on canvases placed throughout the venue. He underscored Destination Cleveland's commitment to collaboration with current and new partners and asked attendees to be willing to thrive together.

Held at Jacobs Pavilion at the Nautica Entertainment Complex, guests were entertained by Falling Stars and enjoyed a cocktail reception following the meeting. The organization is appreciative of the support of all its partners, particularly those that worked together to put on today's event. Destination Cleveland would like to thank Fox Sports Ohio/SportsTime Ohio for serving as the presenting sponsor of the annual meeting as well as the other event sponsors: Dominion Energy, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, FERN, Howard Hanna, Medical Mutual, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Ohio Business Machines, United Airlines, Vitamix and Watershed Distillery.

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ABOUT DESTINATION CLEVELAND: Destination Cleveland is Cleveland's convention and visitors bureau. This private, non-profit organization's mission is to drive economic impact and stimulate community vitality for Greater Cleveland through leisure and business travel.  Cleveland welcomes 18 million visitors annually.  For more information, visit

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