Saturday, April 21st, 2007
By William Kincaid
Local tourism dollars increase
  WAPAKONETA - Tourism revenue in Mercer and Auglaize Counties is up again for the third year in a row, generating $51.1 million in local spending in 2006.
Donna Grube, director of the Auglaize & Mercer Counties Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), presented her annual report to a group of local business owners and politicians during the organization's annual luncheon and awards presentation at the Eagles Lodge on Friday afternoon.
Grube said tourism revenue in 2006, which helped support 2,556 dual-county jobs, was derived from the following sources:
• $5.4 million from gross room sales
• $16.1 million from gasoline, oil and auto repair
• $18.8 million from restaurants and clubs
• $4.3 million from entertainment and recreation
• $6.5 million from general retail purchases
"You can see by the numbers it was a good year ... a busy year," Grube said. "... For the third straight year, numbers are up."
However, Grube said the actual amount of revenue generated in 2006 is higher than what was officially reported. The organization only keeps track of those tourists who stay at hotels. None of the money from the many day-trippers and over 40,000 campers is recorded.
"It's actually much more higher," she said.
The CVB draws its budget directly from a 3 percent bed tax charged at hotels in the two-county area. That means the $5.4 million in room rentals last year generated $162,000 for CVB coffers. Much that money is used to market the area as a tourist destination.
Grube also reported that the organization's Web site - created by Twyla Hayes, owner of Brand It Design, Rockford - was voted the best tourism Web site in Ohio in 2006.
"You need a great Web site," Grube said. "It's where people go for their travel information."
She said 60 percent of tourists nationwide plan their entire vacations exclusively on the Internet - a motivation for the organization to continually update its own site.
The CVB also honored WCSM Radio in Celina and Joe Lenhart, Wapakoneta, for their outstanding contributions to the local tourism industry and support for the CVB.
WCSM was the recipient of the Stahr Award, presented by Hines and trustee Jim Coons, while Lenhart was the recipient of the Ambassador Award.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Josh Hines - president of the organization and general manager of Holiday Inn Express, Wapakoneta - expressed concerns about the lake.
He said calls for improving lake quality should not include lowering water levels, which he said could deter tourists with the perception of "an even shallower lake."
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