Each year, tourism professionals across the country unite to celebrate the value travel holds for our economy, businesses, communities and personal well-being during U.S. Travel Association’s National Travel and Tourism Week. During this year’s celebration May 1-7, 2022, Experience Columbus is pleased to provide an update on the state of the tourism industry in the Columbus region, which supports nearly 78,600 jobs in Franklin County, by sharing highlights from its 2022 Annual Meeting, held May 3, 2022, at KEMBA Live!
Hundreds of travel and tourism industry professionals, Central Ohio business owners and community leaders attended the event, which was the first in-person Annual Meeting since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Live to Celebrate was the theme, inspired by Experience Columbus’ Live Forward branding and marketing campaign and intended to capture the excitement of tourism recovery and the return of festival season. Brian Ross, CTA, President and CEO at Experience Columbus; Janelle Coleman, Chair of Experience Columbus’ Board of Directors; and Mayor Andrew J. Ginther shared remarks to celebrate the resiliency of the tourism industry, share 2021 successes and look ahead to Columbus’ continued recovery.  

“The last time we gathered in person in March 2020, it was to celebrate a record-breaking year for the tourism industry,” says Ross. “During these past two years, our partners have demonstrated their determination, creativity and resiliency, and we’ve launched the highly successful Live Forward marketing campaign to help rebuild Columbus’ economy and support the local community as a resource. This year’s Annual Meeting was a celebration of our community’s collective efforts during the pandemic and indicates the strong recovery that’s ahead.”

Ross shared research by Longwoods International that shows 91 percent of Americans plan to travel in the next six months, a trend some industry experts have dubbed as “revenge travel,” because travelers are eager to make up for lost time and canceled vacations. Ross noted that Columbus is well-positioned to welcome visitors, as drive destinations are especially popular and Columbus is a one-day drive for 50 percent of the U.S. population. 
In line with the Live to Celebrate theme, attendees also got an exclusive peek at the return of festival season this summer with previews of the Columbus Arts Festival, Stonewall Columbus Pride Festival, Red, White & BOOM!, Jazz & Rib Fest, and Festival Latino. In addition to the city's existing signature events, Experience Columbus announced a brand-new event coming Aug. 20, 2022, CBUS Soul Fest. This celebration of Black culture, music, art food and more builds upon the new platform Experience Columbus launched in February to amplify rich, historic, innovative and forward-moving Black culture in Columbus. The one-day event will be produced in partnership with Columbus Recreation and Parks Department and will take place in Bicentennial Park. More details, including the line-up announcement and vendors, will be announced soon.  
Additional 2021 successes shared during the 2022 Annual Meeting included:   

  • Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission booked 231,653 room nights  

  • City bed tax collections were $33.5M, a 57% increase YoY 

  • Experience Columbus launched a new Mobile Visitor Center and attended 19 community events 

  • ExperienceColumbus.com saw 1.2 million unique website visitors  

  • New Columbus Gift Guide launched at the holidays, bringing 165,000 Unique Visitors to holiday web pages 

  • 233 new Certified Tourism Ambassadors (CTAs) were trained and 1,384 CTAs remain active 

  • Experience Columbus welcomed 46 new partners, closing 2021 with 921 total partners 

  • Several new digital platforms, including Alexa Flash Briefing, Apple Business Chat, Threshold360 and RootRez hotel bookings, launched 

  • A new Diversity Apprenticeship Program launched with an initial cohort of 6 apprentices 

Experience Columbus is also seeing an increase in meetings and conventions coming to the city, with 34 citywides in 2022, two more than in 2019. Speakers also looked ahead to 2023, highlighting two major events that will have a lasting impact on Columbus’ economy. The PCMA Convening Leaders Conference in January 2023 and the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in June 2023 will bring a total of approximately 8,000 attendees to Columbus and $8 million in direct visitor spend with the potential to reach hundreds of millions over the next ten years.  
Finally, Hilton Columbus Downtown’s highly anticipated second tower, also known as Tower 402, will open in the fall, providing Columbus a 1,000-room hotel connected to the convention center that is ideal for large convention groups. “The 28-story tower will serve as a striking symbol of how Columbus and our hospitality industry is reaching new heights,” Mayor Ginther said in a video recording during the meeting. 
To learn more and to view our 2021 Annual Report video, visit www.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 43 million trips to Greater Columbus for conventions, trade shows, sporting events and leisure visits, spending $7.6 billion and supporting nearly 78,600 jobs. For more information, visit ExperienceColumbus.com.  

Media Contacts 
Leah Berger, APR, CTA: lberger@experiencecolumbus.com | 614-222-6145