Mayor Ginther's helicopter tour wooed trade group

Katy Smith
Downtown Columbus, seen here in a drone shot.

Columbus is preparing to host the “Superbowl of meetings” Aug. 10-13 when the American Society of Association Executives comes to town. Convincing the influential group to hold its annual conference here took several years and multiple out-of-state visits by local officials, and ultimately it came down to a helicopter ride with Mayor Andy Ginther.

On this tour-by-air Feb. 22, 2016, the first of its kind, Ginther and representatives from Experience Columbus and other organizations showed ASAE CEO John Graham around Columbus: The Short North, downtown neighborhoods, the Scioto riverfront, Nationwide Children’s Hospital and more. It was an idea born of necessity —Graham had only one day to visit.

“The mayor did a great job of it,” says Graham. “I wasn’t expecting it and it was very interesting. It was the first thing we did and it was a great way to introduce us to the city.”

Sure, “American Society of Association Executives” doesn’t quite have the ring of “national political convention,” but it has been at the top of Brian Ross’ list since he became CEO of Experience Columbus in 2013. The convention’s benefits to its host cities reverberate for years into the future as its attendees make recommendations for their groups to have meetings in those destinations, generating an estimated $500 million in revenue down the road.

“These are major industry influencers on multiple levels coming here,” Ross says. “And they are going to take back an experience, an image, a perception of Columbus to their home cities. I truly believe this is going to be transformational for our community.”

After the helicopter ride, Graham and his team were treated to the must-stop at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams in the North Market, made the rounds of downtown hotels, attended a reception in Miranova’s Ivory Room and dined that evening at M, Ginther says.

“It was such a blast,” he says. “I think our greatest decade is ahead of us with respect to tourism and conventions. And it all started with a helicopter ride.”