COLUMBUS, Ohio—Experience Columbus, the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region dedicated to growing visitor spending and enhancing the visitor experience, held its 2023 Annual Meeting on March 8, 2023 in Hilton Columbus Downtown’s new tower. The city’s upward trajectory and bright future was the focus of the gathering, which was attended by more than 500 community members. Amongst the attendees were city and county officials and representatives from across the Central Ohio hospitality industry, including hoteliers, restaurateurs and local business leaders.
“Columbus’ travel economy plays a critical role in our local economy,” said Brian Ross, President and CEO of Experience Columbus. “Annually, visitors make 42.7 million trips to Greater Columbus for conventions, trade shows, sporting events and leisure visits, spending $6.6 billion and supporting nearly 75,000 jobs. This year’s Annual Meeting celebrated the strong recovery we saw in 2022 and looked ahead to how the travel economy will grow in 2023.”
Speakers during the luncheon included Ross, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, City Council President Shannon Hardin, Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce, Experience Columbus Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programming Shannon Jones, Ph.D., and several others. The event celebrated major initiatives, including three new experiential trails, the launch of the city’s first-ever Accessibility Guide and a record-breaking year for the organization in several areas. A strong year for the travel economy directly impacts the region, generating local, state and federal revenue that supports more than 30 health and human services as well as the arts.
Mayor Ginther, Council President Hardin and Commissioner Boyce also provided a recap of PCMA Convening Leaders, a major event that was held in January at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and welcomed 3,300 attendees. Results included $4.2 million in direct visitor spend from the weekend, and the event has the potential to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars over the next decade as the meeting planners who visited — many for the first time — go on to book conferences and events in Columbus.
Board Acknowledgements & Transitions Announced
The Annual Meeting also served as an opportunity to celebrate Experience Columbus’ Board of Directors Outgoing Chair, Janelle Coleman, Vice President of Community Engagement, Diversity, Inclusion at AEP and President of the AEP Foundation. Coleman has served as Chair since March 2021 and has been instrumental in leading the organization through the pandemic.
Experience Columbus also announced its Incoming Chair, Traci Martinez. Martinez is the Columbus Office Managing Partner of Squire Patton Boggs, US LLP and will serve a two-year term beginning March 15.
“We are appreciative of the leadership Janelle has shown over the past two years and all that she contributed to guide our organization during one of the most challenging periods in our history,” Ross said. “We are also thrilled to welcome Traci into this leadership role. Traci has served on our board for four years, including as Vice Chair, Secretary and Chair of the DE&I Subcommittee. She is a dedicated advocate for our industry, and we look forward to all that we will accomplish together.”
Coleman said it has been an honor to serve Experience Columbus as Chair of its Board of Directors for the past two years.
“Throughout my tenure, I have been inspired by the leadership and dedication of Brian Ross and his team, the guidance of our excellent Board of Directors and the resiliency of our industry partners," said Coleman. "Through it all, I’ve learned something very important. Tourism brings people together and creates a sense of community. I know the future for Columbus’ travel economy is bright under the leadership of Brian and as Traci Martinez steps into the role of board Chair. I look forward to seeing all that the organization accomplishes in the years ahead.”
Martinez is a nationally recognized trial lawyer and community leader, known for her strategic approach and goal-oriented focus. She regularly volunteers her time to advance diversity initiatives within the firm and the community. Among a long list of accolades, she was selected by Latino Leaders magazine as a Top Latino Lawyer and included among its Most Powerful Women in Law.
“I am excited and honored to assume this role at such an important time in our city’s history as we continue to rebound from the effects of the pandemic,” Martinez said. “Thanks to steadfast leadership of everyone at Experience Columbus, the amazing collaboration of our many partners, and the talent of our residents, the City of Columbus continues to distinguish itself as a premiere destination for commerce and tourism. Last year was a strong year of recovery for our economy, and our city’s future has never been brighter.”
The following board members who have completed their terms and will be transitioning off the board were also recognized:
- Jim Kunk, retired, Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority
- Joel Pizzuti, President & Chief Executive Officer, Pizzuti Companies
- Chris Ruess, VP of Real Estate Investment, Capital Square Ltd
- Joe Savarise, President & CEO, Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association
- Doug Ulman, Chief Executive Officer, Pelotonia
To learn more about Experience Columbus’ 2023 Annual Meeting and to read the organization’s latest Annual Report, which will be shared later today, visit ExperienceColumbus.com/AnnualMeeting.
About Experience Columbus
Experience Columbus is the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, dedicated to growing visitor spending and enhancing the visitor experience. Annually, visitors make 42.7 million trips to Greater Columbus for conventions, trade shows, sporting events and leisure visits, spending $6.6 billion and supporting nearly 75,000 jobs. Columbus is proud to be selected as the host city for the 2023 U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting coming in June and to have hosted PCMA Convening Leaders 2023, which brought together the world's business events professionals in January. For more information, visit ExperienceColumbus.com.
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