Experience Columbus is aiming for a "world-class" label for the city's convention and tourism business. A recent bid to host the Republican National Convention in 2016 and a likely bid on the 2016 Democratic bash are considered the latest evidence of how far the city has come.
March 5, 2014
Experience Columbus is aiming for a "world-class" label for the city's convention and tourism business.
A recent bid to host the Republican National Convention in 2016 and a likely bid on the 2016 Democratic bash are considered the latest evidence of how far the city has come.
"We're going to talk about some of the transformation our community is undergoing and some of the many projects that are making Columbus more beautiful, accessible and vibrant for our businesses," Brian Ross, CEO of Experience Columbus, told a full house yesterday at his organization's annual meeting at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
For instance, the city is studying passenger rail service to better connect Port Columbus with Downtown, said Columbus City Council President Andrew J. Ginther during a discussion with Ross and Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown.
The discussion was introduced with driving rock music and photos of Columbus projected in the background.
"It's not just about those direct flights and other things that we're working on, but getting around Columbus once you get here," Ginther said, citing new Car2Go and bicycle-sharing programs.
Brown pointed to the Columbus Museum of Art, which last year won a National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation's highest honor for community service, as evidence of the city's vibrant arts and cultural scene.
"We're so fortunate that it is so vibrant, so wonderful, so accessible," Brown said about the museum. "The arts scene is so important to bringing visitors in."
Bicentennial Park at the Scioto Mile, COSI and Huntington Park also are draws for out-of-towners, Ginther said.
But the city's arrival as an event destination was sealed in October 2012 with the opening of the Hilton Columbus Downtown hotel and its 532 guest rooms, said Lisa Hinson, the outgoing chairwoman of Experience Columbus.
Central Ohio hotels attracted nearly 14 percent more visitors last year, partly because of the new hotel, according to commercial real-estate firm CB Richard Ellis in Columbus.
"Make It Columbus," an effort to attract more regional or national meetings that city residents would otherwise attend elsewhere, "resulted in bookings that represent an estimated
$133 million in economic impact" in 2013, Ross said.
Meanwhile, the new hotel helped the Greater Columbus Sports Commission attract larger meetings and events, including the National Hockey League All-Star Game in 2015, said Scott Peacock, public-relations manager for Experience Columbus.
Hinson, a public-relations and marketing executive, said, "Our capacity to house that number of people certainly was greatly improved with the addition of the Hilton and its connectivity to the convention center."
The city's Arena District and Short North restaurants and art galleries are within walking distance of the new hotel and the convention center.
"Our foodie scene has grown and is getting national attention," thanks to companies such as Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams and Cameron Mitchell Restaurant Group, Hinson said.
In about two months, the Heart of Africa
exhibit is expected to open at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
"This has been a longtime dream of Jack Hanna," she said, "and it's sure to bring visitors to our city."