Ohio begins effort to attract tourists

COLUMBUS, OH: The Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association plans to mount a

major grassroots campaign to promote tourism in the state. On November

7, it held a summit of more than 250 people from the state's hotel,

restaurant, airline, and rental car industries, along with reps of

various convention and visitors bureaus from across the state.

The aim of the meeting was to devise ways for the industries to work

together to boost tourism and to focus attention on the need for the

state to spend more money on tourism promotion, said Bart Hacker, public

affairs director for the association.

Ohio spends $6 million a year promoting tourism, much less than

neighboring Michigan, which spends $17 million, and Pennsylvania,

which spends $26 million-$30 million. "We want to educate

our politicians" about the amount of money tourism can bring the state,

Hacker said.

Hacker said he is looking for PR firms to offer pro-bono help to

kick-start his efforts. "We would love to work with firms to help craft

our message," he said.

Even before the events of September 11, tourism in Ohio had been down 7%

for the year as the economy slowed. The tragedy sent hotel occupancy

across the state down 25%-30% in September, Hacker said. October

occupancy was down 10%-12% compared to last year. "Everybody was down

across the state," he said.

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