COLUMBUS – Columbus’ tourism economy boomed in 2019. Record-breaking numbers were achieved in every industry measure: direct visitor spending, bed tax revenues, employment, hotel inventory and number of citywide conventions. After hosting what is being heralded as the “best ASAE ever,” Columbus is poised to become one of the top tourism and convention destinations in the country. At last night’s Experience Columbus Annual Meeting, the organization celebrated the community’s many 2019 successes and shared an optimistic outlook for a new decade that proves More is Possible in Columbus.

2019 Successes
In 2019, records were broken in every metric used to gauge the success of Columbus’ tourism economy. Bed tax collections reached an all-time high of $49.7 million. Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission beat production quotas, booking a total of 506,492 room nights for future meetings, conventions, group tours and sporting events.

Experience Columbus welcomed 109 new partners in 2019, for a total of 1,008. Unique web visits to totaled nearly 1.5 million, a 9.4% increase over the year prior. The PR team placed 756 articles in local, regional and national media outlets, resulting in 1.1 billion impressions, while regional radio, billboard, magazine and digital advertising reached 92.3 million leisure visitors.

The Greater Columbus Certified Tourism Ambassador™ (CTA) program continued to grow, now totaling 2,181 active CTAs, with 706 new CTAs trained in 2019. In recognition of a person and business or organization that has gone above and beyond to enhance the visitor experience, Melissa Sarver, director of guest relations at COSI, was named Greater Columbus CTA of the Year, and the Franklin County Board of Commissioners was named Greater Columbus CTA Employer of the Year.

View the full annual report here.

“It’s been a tremendous year for the Columbus tourism economy,” said Brian Ross, President & CEO of Experience Columbus. “I’m so proud of everything that our team and community have accomplished together, and look forward to even greater successes on our future endeavors.”

Looking Ahead
In November, Experience Columbus announced that it had been selected to host the 2023 PCMA Convening Leaders Annual Meeting. The world’s largest network of business and event professionals will meet at the Greater Columbus Convention Center Jan. 8-11, 2023, and PCMA’s President & CEO Sherrif Karamat joined Experience Columbus President & CEO Brian Ross to discuss the global impact of business events, and what PCMA means for Columbus. At its 2020 Convening Leaders in San Francisco, PCMA welcomed nearly 5,000 attendees from more than 40 countries and had an economic impact of $14 million.

Experience Columbus is currently working closely with its agency of record, BVK, on a new, vibrant and high-energy approach to marketing the city. The new campaign will be directed at shedding a bright, fresh light on Columbus to differentiate it from its competition. Take a sneak peek of what’s in store here.

Experience Columbus announced the next chair of its board of directors will be Janelle Coleman, executive vice president of external affairs at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Coleman has served on the Experience Columbus board since 2016 and will succeed Cathy Lyttle, senior vice president and chief human resources officer at Worthington Industries, who will have served two terms as chairman of the board when her tenure ends next year.

Recognizing the Best of US
Each year at its Annual Meeting, Experience Columbus acknowledges outstanding contributions to the Greater Columbus visitor experience with the EXPY Awards.

Columbus’ extraordinary achievement in hosting the 2019 ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition would not have been possible without the incredible support of many community partners. City and county officials believed we had the ability to host this game-changing convention from the very start. Sixty-five businesses and individuals contributed financial and in-kind resources totaling more than $4 million. It’s clear that hosting this event was truly a community effort, so this year instead of the traditional EXPY Awards, every business that contributed to the unprecedented accomplishment received an honorary EXPY award. A full list of winners can be found here.


Experience Columbus is the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, dedicated to growing visitor spending and enhancing the visitor experience. Annually, visitors make 41.9 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