COLUMBUS – The 2020 Experience Columbus Annual Report, released today, shows that despite a tough 2020 the city is well poised for a strong recovery in 2021.

As 2020 focused largely on local support and keeping the community connected to local businesses, events and activities, local media impressions increased 217%, average time on the blog rose 45% and social media impressions rose 560%.

Now, research reveals people are ready to travel again, with data indicating:

  • 87% of those surveyed have a trip planned in the next six months (Longwoods International Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 33)
  • 51.15% of meeting organizers expect to have their first in-person or hybrid events beginning in Q3 of 2021 (Northstar Meetings Group Pulse Survey)

Columbus is also well-positioned to receive eager travelers due to its convenient location within a one-day drive from half the U.S. population, as well as the fact that nearly half of the city’s annual visitors make the trip to visit friends and relatives. Data from the Longwoods International Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 28 shows:

  • 63% of travelers say the first trip they will take will be by car
  • 51% say their first trip will be to visit friends and family

As travelers prepare to return to Columbus, they will be able to utilize new technology for trip planning and booking. These innovative technologies include a virtual AI chatbot, designed to meet people wherever they get their information, available on Facebook messenger, the Experience Columbus website, Amazon Alexa and Apple Business Chat. The new was designed with the user in mind, offering listing quick view as well as TripAdvisor, Yelp and OpenTable integration. The Live Forward Live podcast and 360 virtual tours of local businesses invite inspiration, while mobile experience packages and direct hotel booking options make for a seamless planning experience. 

Once in market, visitors can feel confident knowing their health and safety is at the forefront of business operations in Columbus thanks to the Live Forward Pledge. With more than 200 signatories, a new collaboration with The Ohio State University’s Infection Prevention 101 for Public Spaces course, supported by CloroxPro, bolsters the commitment. Additionally, many of the city’s highest visitor touchpoints have obtained or are seeking GBAC STAR™ Accreditation for additional third-party validation. Plus, nearly 250 new Certified Tourism Ambassadors, who are crucial to ensuring a positive visitor experience, were certified through online classes in 2020.

“The last year has been hard on the tourism economy, but the hospitality community remained strong,” said Brian Ross, Experience Columbus president and CEO. “As the availability of vaccines give us hope for the future, we are excited to be able to build on the tremendous work our community partners have done over the past year to set us up for future successes.”

In 2020, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission employed many new sales tactics, such as virtual site visits and an increased social media presence. The organizations booked future business accounting for 236,330 room nights, including the American Trucking Association. Occurring Aug. 16-19, 2023, the meeting will bring 3,885 total rooms and $2.4 million in direct visitor spend. 

“As many sporting events have been allowed to safely play under COVID-19 guidelines, Columbus proved to be once again a top sports destination even during this time,” said Linda Logan, Greater Columbus Sports Commission executive director. “Successfully hosting events such as The Basketball Tournament (TBT) in the first basketball bubble and a hybrid model of our own event, The Community Cup, presented by The Columbus Foundation, have left us well-prepared to welcome the upcoming NCAA championship events and many more events to come.”

From Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2020, the STR report shows that all key performance metrics decreased, but are on par the average in the competitive set:



% 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

Reports from the Office of City of Columbus Auditor Megan Kilgore show 2020 bed tax collections totaled $21.3 million, a year-over-year decrease of 57.21%. This vital funding supports not only Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, but also the Greater Columbus Arts Council, nearly 40 health and human service organizations, the Affordable Housing Trust and Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority. 

Since the public health order limiting mass gatherings, 300 scheduled groups working with Experience Columbus and/or the Greater Columbus Sports Commission have canceled, representing 372,386 total room nights and $310.8M in direct spend, while 35 groups have rebooked their dates, falling between 2021 and 2027, representing 62,144 room nights.

View the full 2020 Experience Columbus Annual report 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 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