Greater Cleveland attracted 18.5 million visitors in 2017, a 2.3 percent increase over the year before, and set another record.
The increase outpaced the uptick in visitation to both Ohio, which grew 2 percent in 2017, and domestic travel within the United States, which grew 1.9 percent, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Destination Cleveland, the region’s tourism bureau, released the visitor numbers Wednesday, along with the results of a biannual study of the economic impact of tourism in Cuyahoga County. That study shows that the tourism industry contributed $8.8 billion in economic impact to the regional economy in 2017.
Tourism Economics, a travel research firm based outside Philadelphia, conducted both the visitation and economic impact studies.
According to the research, both day and overnight visitors to Cuyahoga County increased the same amount – 2.3 percent – from 2016 to 2017. Day visitors represented 59 percent of the total, while 41 percent were overnight visitors.
A visitor is generally defined as someone who travels at least 50 miles from home, outside his or her community and not as part of a normal routine.
“With more visitors coming to the region year after year, perceptions of Cleveland continue to be changed around the country and the world,” said David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland. “And a visitor is so much more than just a visitor. Positive travel-related experiences in Northeast Ohio influence visitors’ consideration of Cleveland as a place to live, work, study or invest, which helps us to get one step closer to our goal of becoming a destination city.”
Destination Cleveland has set a goal of attracting 20 million visitors by 2020.
Elsewhere in Ohio, Experience Columbus reported a 3 percent increase in the number of visitors to Greater Columbus in 2017; Cincinnati USA said the region saw a 2 percent increase in visitation in 2017.
Cuyahoga County tourism: By the numbers, 2017
18.5 million: total number of visitors
10.9 million: day visitors
7.6 million: overnight visitors
5.3 million: hotel rooms sold
$8.8 billion: total economic impact, up 8.6 percent over 2015
$1.1 billion: sales tax generated by visitors (resulting in a savings of about $1,100 per household)
68,000: jobs in the tourism industry, 8.2 percent of private employment