MOUNT VERNON — The strong growth of tourism in Ohio in recent years calls for a “one-stop-shop” for entrepreneurs looking for information about how to build new businesses, Assistant State Tourism Director Alicia Reece said Thursday at the Woodward Opera House. She announced the unveiling of the Ohio Tourism Division’s “Ohio Tourism Toolbox” during a stop on her Town Hall Tour, a set of trips that are bringing officials out of Columbus and into the state’s 88 counties to meet with local officials, make contacts and encourage non-traditional partnerships.
“We’re very excited about it because it is a place everybody can go for information,” Reece said. “It’s a one-stop-shop that will help people expand their businesses, develop new products or make an effort to retain existing business.”
The program features a comprehensive Web site (http://ohiotourism.osu.edu) formed in partnership with The Ohio State University, particularly, the OSU Extensions, the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, the OSU College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, and others. The Web site allows regional tourism promoters to connect to OSU’s extensive resources, with an aim of expanding an industry which already generates $12 for every single dollar spent, according to 2009 Ohio tourism statistics.
Reece also said that the OTD is partnering with Issue Media to work on developing a “brand loyalty” among patrons of Ohio’s tourism sights, particularly the young. Issue Media will be generating copy for Web sites and promotional materials.
Though the current economic climate offers many challenges, Reece said tourism’s growth, even during downturns, justifies promoting it and its structure. Though all state departments are suffering severe budget restrictions this year, Reece said that she hopes OTD will be able to continue moving forward with these projects.
“Obviously, these are tough times for everyone and certainly our Tourism Division is not immune to it,” she said, adding that the division has been leveraging its activities by seeking out non-traditional partnerships, such as developing the Toolbox program with the OSU Extension program. Another partnership is with the Ohio National Guard, setting up discount programs through county convention and visitors bureaus that will be offered directly to military families who may be seeking events and attractions near bases. Reece said it was important to do things like that in order to get residents reinvesting in their own state’s attractions as well, particularly in an economic slump, when people are looking for things to do close to home.
Knox County Convention and Visitors Bureau director Pat Crow hosted Reece and other state and regional officials at ThePlace@TheWoodward and then took the group on a tour of the Woodward Opera House, to show them the future gem of Mount Vernon in its early stages of restoration. Discussion among attendees, who included other area tourism officials including Lee Tasseff of the Richland County Convention and Visitors Bureau, compared the Woodward to the two decade plans needed to finish restoration of historic theaters in Columbus. Crow said that one thing which will help the future of the project is the frequent school tours brought through the building, which often results in the children encouraging their whole families to come see the structure during First Fridays and other times when tours are offered. Reece said that Mount Vernon’s unique and distinctive attractions made it an ideal tourism destination.