COLUMBUS – In 2017 Columbus thrived, and the local tourism economy played a significant role in that prosperity. Tonight, at its Annual Meeting, Experience Columbus celebrated the community’s many successes in 2017, took a look at what’s ahead in 2018 and shined a spotlight on the vibrant festivals that pack the city’s calendar and attract thousands of visitors each year.

2017 Successes

Columbus’ visitor industry surpassed records and goals in 2017. Bed tax collections hit a new all-time high at $46.8 million. Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission beat production quotas, booking a record 508,859 room nights. And, Experience Columbus welcomed 186 new members, totaling 1,118 members and partners.

Unique website visits to totaled more than 1.6 million, an increase of nearly 19 percent over last year. The team placed 739 articles in regional and national media, which resulted in 8.6 million impressions, and hosted 67 travel writers.

The Certified Tourism Ambassador™(CTA) Program celebrated five years of working to ensure every visitor has a great experience in Columbus. Since the program launched, Columbus has trained more CTAs than any other city in the U.S., with more than 3,800 people being certified in the national program. Of the total number, 406 individuals have been with the program since the beginning. To recognize a person and business or organization that has gone above and beyond to enhance the visitor experience, Amanda Davis, executive director of Visit Grove City, was named Columbus CTA of the Year, and the Greater Columbus Convention Center, was named Columbus CTA Employer of the Year.

A Look Ahead

Experience Columbus welcomed the next chair of its board of directors, Cathy Lyttle, vice president corporate communications and investor relations at Worthington Industries. Lyttle has spent decades helping build Columbus as a community trustee, philanthropic leader and role model. She succeeds Robert Shenton, managing partner of Plante Moran, who served for two terms as chairman of the board since 2014.

As work continues to increase awareness and bolster its national image, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission will aggressively pursue marketing strategies with a new advertising agency, BVK. In April, an innovative ad campaign will launch in key markets to ensure that our national reputation matches our city’s progress and reality.

The community also is preparing for large, high-profile events and new attractions that will raise our destination profile and draw more visitors. In 2018, Columbus will welcome 28 large citywide conventions, a 17 percent increase year-over-year.

From March 30 to April 1, the NCAA Women’s Final Four National Championship will take place at Nationwide Arena. The festivities are expected to attract 80,000 fans over the four days, including 30,000 from outside the region, who will generate $20 million in direct visitor spending.

In the fall, the Hilton Columbus Downtown will break ground on an expansion that will add 470 convention hotel rooms. The additional rooms will give the city its first 1,000 room hotel attached to the convention center that national meeting planners require when booking large events. Columbus’ investment in meetings infrastructure will not go unnoticed as thousands of decision makers from the American Society of Association Executives are in the city during the 2019 Annual Meeting & Exposition.

Recognizing the Best of US

Each year at the Annual Meeting, Experience Columbus acknowledges outstanding contributions to the Greater Columbus visitor experience with its EXPY Awards. This year’s recipients were:

  • New Albany Classic Invitational Grand Prix & Family Day - 20th Anniversary
  • Short North Alliance -  10th Anniversary of Highball Halloween
  • Franklin County Board of Commissioners -  82nd National Association of Counties Conference
  • Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority -  Greater Columbus Convention Center Expansion and Renovation
  • Hotel LeVeque
  • The Ohio State University Student Life - Columbus Welcome

To view the full 2017 Annual Report, click here.  


Experience Columbus is the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, dedicated to growing visitor spending and enhancing the visitor experience. In 2016, Columbus was ranked “Highest in Visitor Satisfaction in the Midwest” by J.D. Power in the 2016 Destination Experience Satisfaction StudySM.  Annually, visitors make more than 39.9 million trips to Greater Columbus for conventions, tradeshows, sporting events and leisure visits, spending $6.4 billion generating $9.7 billion in economic impact and supporting nearly 75,000 jobs. For more information, visit