Tourism spending in Ohio continues to grow, and Butler and Warren counties are driving that growth with billions of dollars in sales from hotel stays and at attractions.
Ohio saw an estimated 207 million visits from travelers last year, up from 200 million the previous year and 181 million in 2011, according to TourismOhio. The state tourism office said visitor spending has increased by 27 percent in the past five years, since 2011.
The number of tourism supported jobs also has climbed steadily, reaching 420,000 last year, up from 412,000 in 2014.
Tourism in Butler County has now exceeded $1 billion for the first time ever, according to the latest research.
Butler County generated just over $1.1 billion in 2015, a 7.1 percent increase from 2014 and above the state’s 4.9 percent growth, according to TourismOhio.
“These are exciting times for Butler County tourism development,” said Mark Hecquet, Executive Director of the Butler County Visitors Bureau. “The future is very bright indeed. The Liberty Center expansion, TopGolf, Main Event Entertainment, Spooky Nook at Champion Mill Sports Complex, Marsh Lake expansion, riverfront and downtown development in Middletown, and Miami University development will further enhance and grow Butler County’s tourism offerings.”
Warren County, which markets itself as Ohio’s Largest Playground, also saw increases in revenue in 2015.
Warren County’s tourism revenue increased by four percent in 2015.
Southwest Ohio averaged a 5.7 percent increase in tourism dollars last year and a big part of that was from Warren County, which had 11.8 million visitors to attractions like Kings Island, the Great Wolf Lodge and several professional sporting events.
“Tourism is the number one industry in all of Warren County, and we are thrilled with the steady growth of tourism here,” said Phillip Smith, president & CEO of the Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Visitors spending money on our main streets and in our attractions create and sustain jobs, and maybe most importantly, lower the tax burden for our residents.”
Smith said there is a lot that Warren County has to offer and each year the attractions improve themselves.
According to the agency, overnight travelers typically spend three times more than day visitors. The county has enjoyed strong growth in both the leisure travel segment and sports travel. Smith said the county hosted 105 sports events that drew 185,000 people and resulted in more than 70,000 room nights sold in local hotels and motels — an economic impact of $40.8 million for that segment.
Last year, WCCVB was named the top National Sports Tourism Organization of the Year by the National Association of Sports Commissions.
“Tourism continues to be a vital part of our county’s economy,” Hecquet said. “Each year we have experienced consistent growth within the tourism industry. This directly translates into more jobs and a better quality of life for county residents.”
Hecquet said the report also noted the county’s tourism industry contributed more than $26 million in local taxes .
Hecquet said tourism saves residents hundreds of dollars per year in annual taxes. In the absence of the state and local taxes generated by tourism, each Ohio household would need to pay an additional $690 per year to fill the gap, he said.
Staff Writer Grant Pepper contributed to this report.