A rise in tourism equals big bucks for Cleveland

CLEVELAND - There were so many events happening in Cleveland Saturday that some people were stuck on deciding what to do. But it all means good things for greater Cleveland according to Positively Cleveland's CEO, David Gilbert. 

"Yeah this is a huge weekend," said Gilbert, "In fact, we're expecting about 200,000 people downtown."

Events like the Susan B. Komen Walk for the Cure, the Cleveland Classic at Browns Stadium, Ingenuity Fest, the Dragon Boat Race, the Cleveland Indians… well, you get the picture. There were lots of events Saturday signifying to Gilbert, tourism in Cleveland is on the rise. 

But just how much? Gilbert said studies done show Cleveland and Cuyahoga County received about 13 million visitors from outside of the county in the year 2009.  

In the year 2011, Gilbert said studies counted about 14.9 million visitors. This year's projections, of course, have the numbers increasing once more, but Gilbert says those projections don't even include the new Horseshoe Casino, the Medical Mart or the Cleveland Aquarium's new expansion.

When Tourism goes up, so does the spending in Cleveland, and to Gilbert, that means more jobs.

"Those 14.9 million visitors support over 60,000 jobs that are within travel and tourism. It's actually the 4th largest employer in Cuyahoga County are industries related to travel in tourism," said Gilbert. 

"I just moved here from Wisconsin about a year-in-a-half-ago. I love that there's always something to do," said Josie Steffts. She and four friends had just gotten off of a Sparx City Hop trollies tour and were enjoying an outdoor lunch Saturday near E.14th and Euclid Avenue. While Steffts is newer to the city, her friends are now and all described how they see tourism impacting Cleveland. 

"It's a huge difference," said Lisa Pawul talking about Cleveland. "I started working downtown about a year ago and grew to appreciate so much more because I'm a West-sider and you know, downtown's pretty far away … there's quite a few things to do here that I'm now getting involved with."

Colleen Bernard, who took part in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure would agree. Earlier she told NewsChannel5 while downtown, "I can see they're working on a lot of the buildings and we walked by East 4th … it was just really clean and people were enjoying all the sights."

With money pumping into Cleveland's economy, Gilbert says it's no wonder the city is pumping so much money back in, with new buildings and facilities. 

Who wins out in the end? Recent studies say that would be Cuyahoga County and not just in the jobs tourism produces. 

Studies on Cleveland also show, come tax time, more tourism equals less taxes on Cuyahoga County residents. 

Gilbert said Clevelanders are usually the last the realize tourism's impact on the city. He told NewsChannel5, "Clevelanders have this 'Woe is us attitude' and 'why would people want to come here' but we actually test very well compared to our peer set. Look, people aren't choosing, 'Do I go to Vegas for the weekend or do I go to Cleveland?' But we do compete very well against the Columbus's, the Pittsburgh's and the Cincinnati's of the world and we get more than our share of tourism."

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