State Representative Mike Dovilla (R-Berea), chairman of the Ohio House Committee on Policy and Legislative Oversight, this week convened a field hearing on the implementation of TourismOhio as a result of Senate Bill 314 from the 129th General Assembly. Following the hearing, Chairman Dovilla released the following statement and key findings of the committee:
“Our committee extended an open invitation to public officials, private companies, trade associations, and Ohio residents. We are grateful that many Ohioans answered our call and provided an in-depth conversation on the efforts of our state to market Ohio as a tourist destination.
“Witnesses from numerous trade associations and businesses stressed the importance of having a fully functioning TourismOhio Advisory Board in order to provide guidance to and support the efforts of the Office of TourismOhio.
“In addition, our committee was pleased to learn of the support the Office of TourismOhio is providing to our convention and visitor bureaus by engaging in cooperative marketing campaigns to efficiently and effectively utilize tourism marketing funds.”
Key points from testimony included the following:
• The TourismOhio Advisory Board, established by the General Assembly in Senate Bill 314 of the 129th General Assembly remains without any appointments after being in effect since November 27, 2012;
• According to the Ohio Restaurant Association, Ohio experienced a 28 percent increase in the number of international visitors in 2012, which was the largest increase in the nation;
• Small, family-owned businesses, such as Rudders Café & Deli located on Catawba Island, are extraordinarily impacted by increased tourism which allow them to invest in their employees, their facilities, and their communities;
• The TourismOhio cooperative marketing initiative has allowed all Ohio convention and visitor bureaus to access out-of-state markets and target audiences which typically is not economically feasible for bureaus acting alone;
• The General Assembly should review the $10 million cap on TourismOhio marketing with preference to a cap based on sound, economic metrics such as return-on-investment;
• The General Assembly should review the establishment of a separate TourismOhio “Rainy Day Fund” in the event another economic downturn or inclement weather causes a decline in tourism sales tax receipts, the funding basis for TourismOhio;
• Two of the primary challenges for Ohio’s tourism industry along Ohio’s waterways include invasive species, such as Asian Carp, and the management of phosphorus runoff which feeds algae blooms;
• Educational partnerships between tourism industry employers and public universities, such as that with Cedar Point and Bowling Green State University, assist in providing both seasonal and full-time employees with invaluable professional development opportunities to advance their careers;
• The Greater Cleveland Sports Commission testified with regard to the significant impact of the Major Sporting Event Incentive Program which was designed to attract more national and international events like the President’s Cup and the National Senior Games to Ohio; and
• Individuals who first have jobs in the travel and tourism industry ultimately achieve higher wages in their careers, due to the indispensable, transferrable skills learned while on the job.