COLUMBUS – In conjunction with the 37th annual National Travel and Tourism Week, this year celebrating the Spirit of Travel and the industry’s resilience in the face of this unprecedented public health crisis, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission have released their first quarter 2020 State of the Industry Report.

The tourism economy started the year off on a high note, with year-to-date bed tax collections through Feb. 29 totaling more than 5.6 million, up 8.42% over the same time period the year prior, according to reports from the Office of City of Columbus Auditor Megan Kilgore. These funds support not only Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, but also cultural and arts programs, social services, affordable housing programs and the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority. 

During the first quarter of 2020, Columbus hosted a total of 92 conventions, trade shows and sporting events, including five citywide events, those with 1,000 hotel rooms or more on peak night. The Reading Recovery Council of North America brought in 2,100 attendees to its 2020 Annual Conference while COA Cheer & Dance welcomed 8,000 competitors, families and fans.

In early March, a modified Arnold Sports Festival & Fitness Weekend was the beginning of the disruption of mass gatherings in the state and the tourism economy began to fully feel the effects as the month progressed. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, updated bed tax information from March is unavailable at this time. From Jan. 1 to March 31, 2020, the STR report shows that all key performance metrics decreased:




% change

Average in competitive set





Average Daily Rate (ADR)









* RevPAR is a hotel industry performance metric, which is calculated by multiplying a hotel’s ADR by its occupancy rate

“It’s fitting that the release of our first quarter report aligns with National Travel and Tourism Week,” said Brian Ross, Experience Columbus president and CEO. “Coming off a record-breaking 2019 and beginning 2020 on trajectory to beat that, the losses we experienced, and are continuing to experience, as a result of COVID-19 related shutdowns were felt particularly hard. However, we’re proud of the role our organization plays in the community and will continue to do everything we can to support our partners, book future business and, as the state begins to slowly reopen, ensure the hospitality and tourism industry does its part to jumpstart the city’s economy.”

Since the public health order limiting mass gatherings to groups of 10, 71 groups scheduled to meet in Columbus in 2020 have canceled, representing 130,385 total rooms and an estimated direct visitor spend of $98 million. Another 11 groups have pushed their events to dates later in 2020; these groups represent 9,903 total rooms and an estimated $11.8 million in direct visitor spend. Currently another eight groups are looking to reschedule their 2020 events for future years in Columbus.

“We are proud that our first quarter included the USA Fencing 2020 Junior Olympic Championships,” said Linda Logan, Greater Columbus Sports Commission executive director. “Additionally, we were able to welcome 5,500 attendees to the Ohio Valley Region of USA Volleyball’s 2020 American Challenge Tournament before limits on mass gatherings were imposed. Now, as we continue to evaluate what events look like moving forward, we are pleased to offer weekly Virtual Sports Reports to fans missing their favorite teams and events such as Columbus Crew SC, Columbus Blue Jackets, Columbus Clippers and more.”

Looking ahead, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission booked future business accounting for 63,410 room nights, including the Society for Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science. Scheduled for October 2025, the group will bring 4,000 attendees and an estimated $4M in direct visitor spend.

In an effort to help rebuild Columbus’ vital tourism economy, Experience Columbus is launching a new marketing campaign tomorrow, titled “Live Forward.” It’s designed to capitalize on Columbus’ strengths as a forward-thinking city that’s full of opportunity, a place where thinkers and dreamers are supported by a progressive DNA that allows individuals to thrive in their own ways. The campaign is upheld by the spirit of the city, inspired by the imagination and ingenuity shown by many businesses, and encouraged by the essence of collaboration and community found from City Hall to our citizens, from board rooms to hotel rooms.

“This is something we had been working on before the COVID-19 crisis struck, but as the situation has continued to unfold, we began to see how the call to Live Forward resonates more deeply than we ever could have imagined,” said Sarah Townes, Experience Columbus vice president of marketing. “We’re resilient, and Live Forward is designed to spread the hope, happiness and positive optimism that we’re known for. As the crisis wanes, we are committed to leading the community forward.”


Experience Columbus is the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, dedicated to growing visitor spending and enhancing the visitor experience. Annually, visitors make 41.1 million trips to Greater Columbus for conventions, trade shows, sporting events and leisure visits, spending $7 billion and supporting nearly 78,000 jobs. For more information, visit