Rocky Fork Enterprise

Eylon on local economy

Bureau's marketing efforts paying off for Gahanna businesses

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Departing Gahanna Convention & Visitors Bureau director Karen Eylon sees an upswing in the economy after reviewing a third-quarter report that shows a lodging-tax revenue boost.

In a report that she provided to Gahanna City Council, a year-over-year comparison from lodging-tax revenue shows a 7-percent increase, from $202,490 in 2011 to $216,568 this year. In August alone, lodging-tax revenue increased from $22,555 to $31,018 (37.5 percent).

The GCVB, a nonprofit organization, is support by a portion of the 6-percent lodging tax paid by visitors for hotel rooms.

Although occupancy has been flat at local hotels, Eylon said, the average daily rate has been up.

"I think that's a strong sign not just for Gahanna but central Ohio," she said. "The economy is rebounding and coming back. There's strong business travel during the week. The rates were up, and the weekends were strong. That's good news. Things are looking good for our Gahanna properties."

Eylon said August brings the Gahanna Fall Open Soccer Tournament that's organized by the Gahanna Soccer Association.

An estimated 3,000 soccer enthusiasts visit the city for the weekend event.

A new marketing initiative to bring visitors to the city is the Herbal Trail, which opened May 12, Eylon said.

The trailhead is at the Ohio Herb Education Center (OHEC), with a trail map marking herbal points of interest throughout Gahanna. The trail emphasizes herbal culinary and garden stops but also includes shopping, wellness and eco-learning markers. The trail currently features 38 points of interest. It was made possible through the GCVB securing a $6,500 grant from the Greater Columbus Arts Council//200 Columbus.

For the first time, Eylon said, Gahanna's CVB partnered with the Ohio Division of Tourism's "Too Much Fun" mobile tour.

"The state tries to create awareness for all there is to do and see in Ohio," she said. "They partner with tourism entities like us and corporate partners. They set up a booth at festivals and have a prize wheel, with prizes from partners like ourselves."

Eylon said the GCVB sent literature with the mobile tour and educated ambassadors who promoted what Gahanna has to offer.

The tour visited 13 festivals and events in a multistate region. To date, Eylon said, the GCVB has received 2,121 leads from the promotion.

Also for the first year, the GCVB partnered with the Ohio Division of Tourism's Too Much Fun regional newspaper insert, a 12-page glossy magazine-style insert that ran in 13 markets. Thus far, 4,807 leads have been generated from that promotion.

Eylon said the GCVB continues to benefit Gahanna economically by assisting with hotel room blocks and rates, as well as providing Gahanna business owners with the opportunity to include promotional items in sports-tournament welcome bags. To date, 3,832 bags have been distributed.

A minimum of 3,506,644 impressions have been generated about Gahanna in local, regional and statewide publications, she said.

Most recently, Eylon said, the Herbal Trail was featured on MidwestLiving.com.

Looking at social media, Eylon reported, VisitGahanna increased its Facebook likes from 363 in 2011 to 580 in 2012.

The Creekside Blues & Jazz Festival (CBJF) increased its Facebook likes from 1,791 to 2,536. New Facebook pages were created for Holiday Lights! and the Herbal Trail this year, with 64 and 37 likes, respectively.

VisitGahanna also has 1,416 followers on Twitter, and the CBJF has 371 followers.

Eylon told ThisWeek the GCVB spent a period of time getting special events to a point where they could be financially solvent in an effort to direct lodging taxes in investments to market the city.

"There are amazing opportunities," she said. "We have two staff members who will be attending social-media boot camp. We hope to improve."

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