Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Tourism study bought to help leverage grants
By Nancy Allen
In an attempt to leverage dollars to improve water quality in Grand Lake, several groups in Mercer and Auglaize counties have purchased a study that more accurately determines the economic impact of tourism in the two-county area.
And what they found is the area relies on tourism much more than they originally thought.
A local study, prepared annually by the Auglaize & Mercer Counties Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), showed 2007 tourism income for both counties was $47.6 million and supported 2,378 jobs. The more in-depth study, prepared by Tourism Economics of Wayne, Pa., showed tourism income for both counties in 2007 was much higher at $137.3 million and supported 2,486 jobs.
"Other CVB directors have told us it would be about three times what our study says, but we didn't want to spend the money for it," CVB Director Donna Grube said of the study. "But now we need it for grant applications and that was the impetus for purchasing it."
Agreeing to purchase the study at a cost of $2,000 was the city of Celina, Mercer County Community Development office, Celina-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce, St. Marys Community Improvement Corporation, Auglaize County commissioners and the local CVB.
Grube said each year the CVB releases its own report on the economic impact that travelers' dollars bring to the counties. Local CVB officials have always said the numbers are conservative estimates based on lodging tax dollars spent at local hotels by travelers and excludes dollars spent by those who stay at local campgrounds, cabins and cottages, bed and breakfasts and other day trip visitors.
However, a more comprehensive study is done every two years for the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism for which all hotels, campgrounds and other lodging facilities are contacted. Occupancy rates and other travel factors and trends also are part of this in-depth study. The state receives a composite report of all 88 counties, and each individual county then has the opportunity to purchase the report from the company that conducts the research.
The local group decided to purchase the report this year as a request was made for the best, most accurate information concerning tourism dollars and jobs as grant funding is being sought for Grand Lake.
With the contact advisory issued for the lake in May due to unsafe algae toxin levels, there came an increased emphasis on improving the lake's water quality. Consultants have been hired by the private Lake Development Corporation, and city and county officials have been working on possible projects to address the problem.
Grube said the study also will be useful for grant applications other than just ones to help the lake.
"This was not only for the lake, but for jobs and really any application where you are looking at jobs and different sectors and what brings jobs to an area," Grube said.
Grube said she doesn't see the need to purchase another study in the future, unless the grant application process drags on and new tourism figures are needed.