Thursday, August 21, 2008

Marketing and Tourism: An Investment That Is Paying Off

The last couple years, we've had a little tussle at the County Commission and City Hall about whether or not it was a wise investment of dollars to market our region to promote conventions and tourism.

A majority of us believed it made sense to take excess dollars from the hotel occupancy tax (above what was needed to pay off the Convention Center debt payments) and reinvest those funds to market our region to the broader Midwest and nation. (Under state law, these dollars can not be spent on general county or city operations, by the way).

We did this, in part, because surveys of conventioneers had found that they had little to no understanding of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, or what our region had to offer. Compared to our peer cities, we simply weren't on the map, and had no "brand" to speak of. And without visitors, tourists and conventioneers spending money in our city, we were squandering one of our most important potential sources of economic growth. So we took some dollars and invested them in a well-targeted marketing strategy to tell our story near and far, and get people from all over to visit us.

Others disagreed with our investment, attacking this entire approach under the rhetoric of a "pet project."

Well, the results are starting to come in (measured in terms of revenues from hotel nights), and despite a tough economy, those results show that our strategy is bearing fruit.

The second quarter of 2008 generated $3.184M in revenues from the hotel/motel tax, the highest second quarter we've ever had. It is 35% higher revenue than what was generated just four years ago!

And despite the fact that the third quarter of each year is always the best revenue-generator for any year, the 2008 second quarter was the second best quarter we've ever had (only the third quarter of 2007 was higher, at $3.194M). Again, this is all at a time that travel costs have been so much higher in the air or on the road, yet people are still coming.

And all this good news does not even include the NAACP Convention that was such a success this summer, which will be recorded in our third quarter numbers this year.

Thanks to all those great organizations around the County, working hard to tell our story far and wide, for driving this critical source of economic growth. And remember, for every hotel stay, we have visitors touring our many wonderful sites and institutions, patronizing our restaurants and stores, and putting money into our sales tax coffers every step of the way.

Long-term, it is strategic growth investments like these--investments that let us compete with our peer regions--that will drive long-term growth and success.

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