Cleveland hits record number of visitors—paving the way for new ventures, more travelers

Posted at 6:24 AM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-03 06:24:37-04

More people visited Cuyahoga County in 2016 than in any other year in history according to an analysis released by Destination Cleveland. 

18 million was the total number of business and leisure travelers surpassing the record of 17.6 million set only the year before in 2015.

While there might be an urge to attribute the gain to the Republican National Convention along with the Cavaliers NBA title and Indians World Series run, Destination Cleveland President and CEO David Gilbert said that would be selling the city short.

"Those events collectively are still only a fairly small percentage in part because other things would have happened during those weeks," Gilbert said.

It’s an upward trend they’ve been tracking since 2009 as their research has shown visits to Cleveland in that time have grown by an average of close to 800,000 per year.

“It’s easy to talk about the dollars and cents,” Gilbert said of the money spent on their visit at hotels and restaurants. 

"More importantly that's people who came here, there's no doubt based on our research, they see Cleveland in a different light. Those now are people who may think of moving here, investing here, going to college here, on and on and on."

That last part is an important one as Cleveland bids to land Amazon’s new world headquarters, literally the biggest economic development opportunity in a generation. Amazon has said the city they choose would see a $5 billion economic impact with the addition 50,000 good paying jobs.

A lot of cities will be offering assets and tax incentives very close to what Cleveland will offer but as the Indians prepare to begin their quest to return to the fall classic, there is a certain factor that goes along with a city that is perceived to be a winner.

"There is research that shows and it's also intuitive that if you think more positively about a place you are far more apt to choose it. Like you said all else being equal where's a place that looks good from the outside, where's a place that has curb appeal that you just think of as a place that hmmm, that would be kind of a cool place. Maybe it's a place I think my employees are going to want to be," Gilbert said.

Beyond that, Gilbert said the tourism numbers for 2017 are looking good.

“What we really have to go by so far are bed tax collections and we know that we’re up again at least year to date well over two percent in the number of hotel rooms sold,” he said.