(Oct. 27, 2020) – Destination Cleveland, the destination marketing and management organization for Cuyahoga County, today announced that 19.6 million people visited Cuyahoga County in 2019 for business and leisure travel, representing a 2.1 percent increase over 2018 and a 31.5 percent increase since 2011. Based on data from Tourism Economics, a division of Oxford Economics, the 2019 metric surpasses the previous record of 19.2 million visitors set one year prior. For the ninth straight year, visitation to Cuyahoga County grew at a faster rate than the U.S. visitation growth rate (1.1 percent in 2019).
Both day and overnight visitor volumes grew from 2018 to 2019 with day visits growing at 2.8 percent and overnight visits increasing by 1.5 percent. Day visitors represented 58 percent of the total number of visitors to the region, while 42 percent were overnight visitors, which is consistent with 2018. Since 2011, overnight visitation has grown by nearly 34 percent while day visitation increased by 30 percent[i]
Year over year, visitors continued to have an impact on the local economy[ii]
. Travel and tourism in Cuyahoga County accounted for nearly $6.4 billion in direct sales and a total economic impact of $9.7 billion. The figures represent increases of 3.3 percent and 3.2 percent respectively over 2018 figures and 47 and 45 percent increases respectively since 2011. The industry generated $1.2 billion in federal, state and local taxes, which resulted in a savings of more than $1,150 in taxes for each Cuyahoga County household. The industry also produced $2.8 billion in employment income for locals through about 70,000 jobs in Cuyahoga County, a 57 percent increase for income since 2011.
“While it’s been a tremendously challenging 2020, it’s important that we celebrate travel and tourism’s continued position as a growth industry for Cuyahoga County in 2019,” said David Gilbert, president and CEO, Destination Cleveland. “The region was on its way to achieving Destination Cleveland’s goal of 20 million annual visitors by the end of 2020 with a ninth consecutive record-breaking year and our visitation growth rate again exceeding that of the nation and the state. Travel and tourism remains a key industry for Cleveland’s future.”
In a partner event earlier in the day, Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, shared his preliminary forecast for 2020 visitation and visitor spending, reflecting the devastating impact of COVID-19 on the region’s tourism industry. As one of the first and hardest hit industries of the global pandemic, visitation to Cuyahoga County is expected to contract by 47 to 67 percent in 2020, leading to significant permanent job loss, reduced tax generation that offsets resident tax obligations and a decrease of 56 to 75 percent in direct spending.
“It will likely be 2024 before Cleveland fully recovers to its Cleveland’s 2019 visitation levels, based on current economic predictions and continued variables such as ongoing surges of cases and their effect on consumer confidence,” said Sacks. “As a health crisis combined with an economic crisis, it will take longer for the travel and tourism industry to recover than its resurgence following the Great Recession of 2008. Consumer services involving social contact, such as restaurants and live entertainment, will face a much steeper recovery timeline than other sectors that can more easily accommodate social distancing.”
To contribute to the consumer service industry recovery, Destination Cleveland launched its CLEAN COMMITTED
program in June – encouraging businesses to commit to clean environments and standard safe practices and providing free hand sanitizer and paper masks to supplement businesses’ supplies. The program directory of nearly 700 committed businesses was promoted to residents through a Rediscover marketing campaign in August and September and is part of the current Roam the Land
marketing campaign targeting residents and visitors who are ready to travel. Destination Cleveland is also proactively working with Downtown Cleveland Alliance and Cleveland Neighborhood Progress to understand and help ease some of the anticipated challenges restaurants and live entertainment venues (if able to open) will face this winter.
“Rebuilding tourism is vital to our region’s long-term opportunities, and residents will continue to be an integral part of our return to growth,” said Gilbert. “As Destination Cleveland implements its Recovery and Regrowth Plan to help lead the industry’s rebuilding, I’m confident we will be able to continue to partner with other organizations to capitalize on the effect positive travel-related experiences have on helping us to harness the power of the visitor and influence their consideration of Cleveland as a destination city where they could live, work, study or invest.”
ABOUT DESTINATION CLEVELAND: Destination Cleveland is Cleveland’s destination marketing and management organization. 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 19.6 million visitors annually. For more information, visit www.thisiscleveland.com.
[i] Metrics sourced from Cuyahoga County’s 2019 Visitor Volume study produced by D.K. Shifflet as well as the 2019 Tourism Economics Cleveland Visitation Report
[ii] Data sourced from Tourism Economics, a division of Oxford Economics and a world leader in global forecasting and quantitative analysis.