Tourism and Cleveland were not often used in the same sentence a decade ago.
But that's all changed recently.
“I’ve been in destination management in Cleveland for six years,” said Lynde Vespoli. “But, the last two years is when it's really taken off.”
Vespoli is the director of destination management for Discover My Cleveland, a local tour operator.
On Monday, she escorted 28 tourists from Buffalo on a three-day visit to Cleveland.
It’s one of three Cleveland tours she has scheduled this week alone.
A school group from Canada will spend three days in the city while a national group called “Roads Scholars” will spend six.
She credits recent stories landing Cleveland on “must-see” lists of national publications as well as buzz surrounding the upcoming Republican National Convention for an increase in tourism.
“People are like, ‘Well, I need to see it also,' ” Vespoli said.
The Buffalo group spent an entire day exploring Ohio City.
The West Side market, brew pubs, ice cream at Mitchell’s, a tour of The Great Lakes Brewing Company and dinner at Market Garden were all part of their day.
They stopped in for a tour and sweet treats at Campbell’s Sweets Factory across from the West Side Market.
“A few years ago, it [tour groups] would have surprised me, but today there’s too much to do in Cleveland,” said Jeff Campbell.
Campbell and his wife own the four area Campbell’s stores in Cleveland.
Ohio City is an area attracting tourists with its microbrew appeal and neighborhood amenities that weren’t in Cleveland’s tourism arsenal just a few years ago.
Among the visitors from Buffalo are Kathy and Tom Dyl.
“We’re only three hours from Buffalo and it was just a great day and we’ll probably come back,” Kathy said.
Although their first day was packed with things to see, it’s day two that has Tom excited.
The group is heading to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Progressive Field and Playhouse Square, but it is A Christmas Story House Tom is anticipating.
Vespoli said April through June and late August through mid-October are the busiest periods for her Cleveland tours.