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TourismOhio seeks new direction

Melissa Topey • Sep 14, 2013 at 1:50 PM

The Ohio tourism bureau’s budget is a hot topic for those in the industry.

As of the fiscal year that started July 1, TourismOhio has been funded by growth in sales tax revenue from tourismrelated businesses, such as Cedar Point and the many hotels in the area.

The annual funding levels will vary based on the industry’s performance, and it’s capped at $10 million. Still, this is double the $5 million the state previously spent on tourism promotion by way of the general revenue fund.

But the spending is nowhere near what it should be, local tourism titans say.

“The current $10 million cap on funding limits the economic upside of travel and tourism,” said John Hildebrandt, vice president and general manager of Cedar Point. “If the industry continues to prove its worth as a job-creating, tax revenue-generating economic force, then it only makes sense to increase the marketing investment that is fueling that growth.”

TourismOhio plans to place about $2 million a year into a rainy-day fund, for those years when funding may be lackluster. Tourism officials worry that with other expenses, this could mean less than half the money would actually be used to promote the state, through advertising or other means.

Another topic of concern: Members of an Ohio committee are questioning the delay in filling TourismOhio’s top spot.

Michael Dovilla, chairman of the state’s Policy and Legislative Oversight Committee, quizzed Ohio Development Services Agency director David Goodman on Tuesday about why, after six months, a new tourism director has not been hired. The meeting was at Kalahari Resorts.    Tourism-industry analysts estimate that every dollar spent on tourism promotion generates $15 in economic activity. While tourism is a big part of Ohio’s economy, it is especially important in the Register’s coverage area.

Goodman told Dovilla he’s still reviewing the candidates.

“I came here six months ago and I looked at the list of candidates,” Goodman said. “I had to make sure to get to know them. We have narrowed it down, and those individuals are being vetted. Some do not know yet.”

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