Columbus garners national accolades for its events and attractions
By Terry Troy
Make no mistake, 2019 is a banner year for travel and tourism in our State’s capital. But you don’t have to take the word of the staff from Experience Columbus, the destination marketing organization for the Columbus region.
The New York Times selected Columbus among its “Top 52 Places to Go in 2019,” just after Houston, but before Plodiv, Bulgaria. Last year, Food & Wine recognized the city as one of the best culinary destinations in the U.S., lamenting the fact that a “Midwestern City” was pulling culinary talent away from the East and West coasts. Architectural Digest called the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum “one of the most important buildings to be completed this year” when it opened in October 2018.
Travel and tourism in the Greater Columbus area provides $7 billion in direct spending, which supports 78,000 jobs, or one in 12 jobs in all of Franklin County. According to Experience Columbus, the city and surrounding area hosts 41 million visitors annually.
To be certain, Columbus doesn’t need too much help when it comes to business as well as travel and tourism. With its revitalized and booming downtown, it’s already one of our nation’s fastest growing cities. As the headquarters for big box fashions retailers for retailers like Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret and DSW (Designer Brands, Inc.) among others, Columbus has become a destination for fashion designers and smaller boutique fashion retailers as well—putting its shopping on a par with much larger cities on the East and West coasts. Its central location makes it a natural focal point for business meetings and expositions, seminars, government and collegiate and high school sports.
But when you think about Columbus, The Ohio State University Buckeyes come immediately to mind—whether it is football or basketball season. Now you can add the National Hockey League’s Columbus Blue Jackets to the mix, as well as Minor League Baseball’s Columbus Clippers in summer.
“Ohio State does a wonderful job of bringing visitors to our city and it’s not just the football and basketball teams,” says Brian Ross, president and CEO of Experience Columbus. “Without Ohio State, we wouldn’t have the NCAA Women’s Final Four, or other collegiate events like swimming or track.
“But our Greater Columbus Sports Commission also plays a very big role in our success because they bring in sports like fencing, volleyball and other amateur sporting events that are very well attended, too,” Ross adds. “Then you start to look at Ohio high school sporting events and all the state championships and finals that are held here in Columbus each year.”
But our capital’s crowning achievement is the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, officially designated by Congress. Construction of the 55,000-square-foot facility began in 2012 and cost $82 million. The idea was a dream of many, including the late U.S. Senator and astronaut John Glenn from Cambridge, Ohio.
“From a travel and tourism standpoint, we are very excited and tremendously optimistic about the museum’s overall impact on the community,” says Ross. “It should bring people in, as well as extend some overnight stays to people who want to visit.”
But there’s a little more to it than simply economic impact, Ross is quick to add.
“It’s the only museum and memorial of its kind in the nation,” he says. “It is dedicated to the individual stories of the men and women. It’s about what happened to them during their enlistment or service, or when they got out of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines or Coast Guard, or the ultimate impact on their families, who may have a son or daughter who did not come back.
“This museum is about the people who made sacrifices to keep us free. And in some cases, the ultimate sacrifice. So it is a very emotional and rewarding experience for all who visit.”