MOUNT VERNON — Despite the poor economy, tourism in the state of Ohio remains a profitable business, according to Amir Eylon, state tourism director.
“Tourism is a big part of Ohio’s economy,” Eylon told a group of local tourism-related business owners and volunteers on Wednesday during a Partners in Tourism meeting. “Thirty-eight billion dollars was generated in tourism sales in Ohio in 2010. We have sustained 439,000 full-time equivalent jobs. If this was one employer, tourism would be the fourth largest employer in the state.”
Locally, tourism generated $76 million in total sales in Knox County, including $2 million in local taxes, Eylon said.
The state sales numbers are up 7 percent, which proves to Eylon that the state’s tourism industry is resilient and formidable to the needs of the consumer.
“Only 3 percent of the work force was lost during the worst time of the economic downturn,” he said.
Unfortunately, while families are still taking vacations, the national average stay has fallen to three and a half nights from five nights. However, as Ohio is situated within just a few hours of 60 percent of the nation’s population, the endless array of activities and festivals available set the state up as an easy destination choice.
Tourists are looking for more authentic experiences, Eylon said. Coupled with the cost of gasoline, those traveling shorter distances to relax and rejuvenate are wanting more of a personal feel to their get-away, which places Knox County in high regard.
“You have to be aware of what’s in your own backyard,” Eylon told the News. There are a variety of experiences and small-town charms here. It’s only an hour away from Columbus and the opportunities here are tremendous.”
The tourism division of the Ohio Department of Development includes Eylon and 10 other staffers. Because of the small number of employees, Eylon said the tourism industry in Ohio is reliant upon the partnerships that are developed on the local levels such as the visitors bureaus and associations.
“We can’t do this without partnerships,” Eylon said. “It is the front line — regional and local visitors bureaus — that help connect us to the local groups.”