COLUMBUS – Since 1941, when the Columbus Convention Bureau, Inc. (now Experience Columbus) was incorporated, the visitor industry in Columbus has grown into an $8.7 billion industry that supports 71,000 jobs. Tonight, Experience Columbus celebrated 75 years of showcasing the best of Columbus to visitors during its annual meeting, which featured the city’s vibrant nightlife scene with Columbus’ most crave-worthy chefs, restaurants and food trucks; locally produced ales, spirits and mead; art and live music.  

2015 was a record-breaking year in Columbus’ visitor industry. Over 300,000 more people visited Greater Columbus for a total of 37.9 million annual visitors. Hotel occupancy, average daily rates and revenue per available room were at an all-time high, ranking Columbus third among competitor cities. These increases boosted bed-tax collections, which reached a record $42.6 million.

Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission together surpassed production quotas, selling more than 442,000 room nights and putting more than 500,000 room nights in the pipeline for future business. Additionally, Experience Columbus welcomed 155 new members, totaling more than 1,000 members and partners.

The organization’s work to raise the city’s profile and bolster its image generated strong results. The LIFEINCBUS image campaign targeted to millennials in Chicago and Washington D.C. produced 111 million impressions and won the U.S. Travel Association’s 2015 Destiny Award for top branding and integrated marketing campaign. And the organization hosted 91 travel journalists and placed a record 1,029 articles, resulting in more than 1 billion impressions nationwide.

To build on the positive momentum of 2015, Experience Columbus is looking ahead at the next five years and fine tuning its strategic plan. 

“We’ve set aggressive five-year goals focused on growing the tourism economy and increasing awareness of our city’s pulse to shine a spotlight on what is distinctly and authentically Columbus,” said Brian Ross, Experience Columbus president and CEO. “To attain these goals, we will rally community support and prioritize high-yield business segments such as medical, engineering, scientific and corporate. Additionally, we will continue to lead image marketing efforts to grow Columbus’ image as the cool, creative and fun place we know it is.”

The five-year goals include:

·        Increasing annual direct visitor spending by $1.6 billion

·        Adding 6,500 tourism-related jobs

·        Bringing 2.5 million more visitors to Columbus

·        Increasing sales by 52,000 room nights

Recognizing the best of US

Each year, Experience Columbus recognizes outstanding contributions to the Greater Columbus visitor experience with the EXPY Awards. The winners demonstrate the best of ‘US’ and serve as role models for creativity and collaboration in the community. This year’s recipients are:

The Columbus Museum of Art – Margaret M. Walter Wing Addition

With architecture that honors the old and celebrates the new, a design that feels inclusive and open and a creative vibe that is palpable, the transformed Columbus Museum of Art provides a larger, livelier space to showcase the permanent collection and enables the museum to host more national and international touring exhibitions. 

Columbus Crew SC – 2015 MLS Cup

The 2015 MLS Cup provided a showcase for Columbus as a premier soccer destination. With less than a week to prepare for the championship game, Columbus Crew SC pulled off a smashing success, rallying the entire community around the mantra “For The Cup. For Columbus.” Nearly 22,000 tickets sold out in 15 hours; more than 400 local, national and international media outlets sent journalists to cover the game; and 1.2 million viewers in 140 countries watched it live.

Red, White & BOOM! – Celebrating 35 Years

Since its debut in 1981, Red, White & BOOM! has grown to become one of the largest and most spectacular fireworks displays in the Midwest. In 2015, nearly a half million residents and visitors enjoyed Columbus’ largest one-day event in the heart of downtown’s Scioto Mile. The event is a model of collaborative spirit bringing together more than 100 sponsors, thousands of volunteers and dozens of property owners and media, whose investments generated $10 million in economic impact.

Columbus Blue Jackets – NHL All-Star Weekend Celebration, Including 60th All-Star Game

Columbus scored big in January when thousands of visitors and hundreds of media from all corners of the hockey universe came to Nationwide Arena and the Arena District. The Blue Jackets’ Winter Park, a first-of-its-kind event during an All-Star Weekend, engaged thousands with an outdoor ice rink, snow slide, live music and other activities. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman shared a glowing review, declaring that Columbus as a host city earned an A++.

Central Ohio Transit Authority – CBUS

Since its introduction in May 2014, CBUS, the free downtown circulator, has provided visitors with unprecedented access to the Columbus experience with a route that goes through Downtown, the Arena District, Short North Arts District and Brewery District. By connecting hotels, meeting sites, shopping, dining, businesses, sports and cultural events, CBUS has enhanced the visitor experience for growing numbers of event attendees and leisure travelers.

The Certified Tourism Ambassador™(CTA) Program plays an important role in unifying the hospitality workforce in Columbus to enhance each visitor experience. In 2015, 585 residents became CTAs, bringing the total number to more than 2,100. This year, Experience Columbus and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission are pleased to recognize Violet Mowry, a concierge with Columbus Hospitality, as the Greater Columbus CTA of the Year.

The full 2015 Annual Report is available at

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Experience Columbus is the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region, dedicated to growing visitor spending that is generated by conventions, meetings, trade shows and leisure visitors.  Annually, visitors make more than 37.9 million trips to Greater Columbus, generating $8.7 billion in economic impact and supporting more than 71,000 jobs. For more information, visit