Friday, April 11th, 2014
By Amy Kronenberger
Grand Lake area tourism makes progress toward regaining revenues
Mercer, Auglaize counties see 8 percent increase during 2013
  CELINA - Tourism in Mercer and Auglaize counties gained momentum last year with an 8 percent increase over 2012.
Tourism dollars contributed to the local economy totaled $48.6 million in 2013, up $4.1 million from 2012, Donna Grube, executive director of the Auglaize and Mercer Counties Convention and Visitor's Bureau, said during the annual CVB luncheon Thursday.
"The year 2008 was our record breaking year," she said to the crowd at Romer's Catering and Entertainment in Celina. "We're not back to that yet. We took the big hit from our economy and other issues in 2009 and 2010, but it's slowly inching its way back. The collections were good last year and we're very pleased with that."
Tourism dollars hit a high of $51.7 million in 2008, and dropped to $40.3 million in 2010. The decrease was blamed on the toxic blue-green algae blooms in Grand Lake and the poor economy. Tourism contributions were $43.2 million in 2009.
Tourism dollars are calculated by tracking the number of hotel guests in the area, the only number the CVB tracks annually. A formula is used to calculate the approximate amount those visitors use on gasoline, shopping, restaurants and attractions.
Total hotel room sales reached $5.1 million in 2013, up from $4.7 million in 2012. Sales for gasoline, oil and auto repair were estimated at $15.3 million, restaurants and clubs totaled $17.9 million, entertainment and recreation was $4.1 million and general retail purchases totaled $6.2 million.
The total revenue supported 2,551 jobs in 2013, and in the last five years tourism spending has contributed $269.4 million to the economy in the two-county area, Grube said.
The CVB is starting a hospitality campaign this year by encouraging business owners to train their employees to "sell" the area to customers.
"It's very true that visitors who stay longer spend more money, and that's the bottom line," Grube said. "We want to keep people in this town and in these counties as long as possible. Tell them about shopping, about dining, about attractions. We want to encourage you to do that."
Grube boasted the coming Grand Lake Marathon scheduled for Sept. 27.
"They're going right past our front door at the CVB, and we're going to have a comfort aid station, mile 8," she said. The group is looking for volunteers to help run the station and cheer on athletes when they run by.
"If you want to say you are part of the very first marathon, and you don't want to run, you can come to our office," she said.
Anyone interested in running can register at www.grandlakemarathon.com. Those interested in volunteering at the CVB can call Grube at 800-860-4726.
Other upcoming events and projects in the two-county area include the completion of the public Armstrong Picnic Pavilion at the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta and the completion of the West Bank walkway. Also, a "record number of fishing tournaments" will return to Grand Lake this year, Grube said.
The luncheon's guest speaker was Heritage Trails Park District Director Allison Brady, who spoke of the area's topography and impact of the glaciers. She also talked about the importance of protecting and maintaining nature and wildlife preserves, including wetlands.
HTPD maintains Auglaize County Parks. County voters will be asked to consider a new, seven-year, .6-mill levy that will generate about $300,000 annually for the development and maintenance of parks and for education purposes.
Additional online stories for this date
Print edition only stories for this date
• Taxes on ag land to rise next year
• Area dairyman contends farmers being picked on
• Industrial park bids come in under estimate
• Visitors bureau honors members
• New local church puts focus on mission
• Luebke tosses shutout as Bulldogs down Wildcats
• Wildcats sweep home triangular meet
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