State tourism director touts Gahanna’s visitor appeal
Tourism brings business.
That was the primary message given to guests at the Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau’s second annual board meeting April 5 at Creekside.
Laurie Jadwin, chairperson of the GCVB board, said visitors bring in $38 billion annually to Ohio. She cited an annual report by Experience Columbus, showing that visitors to Franklin County spent $7.23 billion in one year.
Jadwin said the GCVB is funded by lodging taxes and event revenues.
“It has become a unique partnership,” she said. “Others look to us to see what we’re doing in Gahanna.”
She said the organization’s mission is to promote Gahanna as a vibrant destination by connecting the people and places of the community, thus contributing to economic prosperity.
The GCVB has grown from a one-person staff in November 2002 to a staff of five, in addition to outsourced public relations from PDG Communications.
Although the workload is challenging, Jadwin said, it’s managed with community assistance from three committees: Hospitality Advisory, Blue Ribbon (Holiday Lights!) and Green Ribbon (Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival).
Jadwin recognized current and founding board members, and an installation of 2012 board members was conducted.
Jadwin and Karen Eylon, GCVB executive director, announced three awards that were created to recognize outstanding contributions from local organizations, businesses and individuals that have generated a more vibrant and distinct experience for visitors and residents.
The awards and recipients are as follows:
• Community supporter of the year, Heartland Bank, vice president Bobbie Burba.
• Tourism partner of the year, AEP Ohio, Terri Flora, director of corporate communications.
• Ambassador of the year, Jane “Bunnie” Geroux, who helped lead the effort for Gahanna to be designated the Herb Capital of Ohio in 1972.
Amir Eylon, state tourism director with the Ohio Department of Development (Karen Eylon’s husband), said tourism is a business, bringing in $2.5 million in state and local taxes and the equivalent of 439,000 full-time jobs.
One in 12 salaried positions is sustained by tourism, he said. “Tourism is part of the fabric of Ohio’s economy,” Eylon said. He said Gahanna has a great opportunity because overnight leisure travel increases along with the price of gasoline.
“When counting pennies, Ohio is an affordable destination,” Eylon said. “When one-tank trips become popular, we’re within a day’s drive to 60 percent of the U.S. population. Eighty-five percent of overnight leisure comes from within 350 miles — Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh. You’re in the heart of something good, folks.”
He said consumers love authenticity, and Gahanna has the Ohio Herb Education Center.
“People look for what makes us what we are,” Eylon said. “You have beautiful parks, festivals and special events. You do that well.”
Eylon said he asks communities across Ohio what’s their “collective vision.”
“What’s the elevator story you want to tell about yourself?” he asked. “Ohio convention and visitors bureaus are our first-line partners. Our business is to drive customers to your front door.”
He said Gahanna’s signature “G” at gateways, as well as being the Herb Capital of Ohio, offers a brand and image for the community.
“That’s curb appeal for who you are,” Eylon said. “It’s a great way to enhance the reputation for who you are.”
He said Gahanna offers great meetings facilities, park amenities and restaurants.
“Make new partnerships and be an ambassador for Gahanna,” he said.