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If You Lived Here... Destination Cleveland Says Stay Long-Term

[f11photo / Shutterstock]
Stock image of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Great Lakes Science Center, and downtown Cleveland.

Cleveland’s tourism bureau says it wants to convince visitors to come back to town—and stay here.

Destination Cleveland announced the new push at its annual meeting Tuesday night. CEO David Gilbert said his group wants to sell visitors on picking Northeast Ohio for the long haul.

“How do we target those people that are coming here, through data, and really being very strategic, partnering with other organizations,” Gilbert said, “to turn those people into new residents, new talents coming into Cleveland, new investors in our community, potentially new students.”

In a news release, the organization said it wants to attract conventions and meetings that line up with local industries.

“We’re in this interesting, unique position that we’ve battled all these perception issues, and by far the No. 1 way to change that is to actually have people come here,” Gilbert said.  

Last October, Destination Cleveland announced that 18.5 million people had visited Cuyahoga County in 2017, according to a survey by Tourism Economics. That was a 2.3 percent increase over the prior year, the group said.

Destination Cleveland is funded largely by the county’s hotel bed tax. In 2017, the organization committed a portion of that money—$44 million over 18 years—to renovations at Quicken Loans Arena.

As part of the deal, the county canceled an earlier agreement that Destination Cleveland would help pay off the construction of the convention center and Global Center for Health Innovation, according to the group’s most recent financial statement.

Gilbert acknowledged the arena project payments do have an impact on the bottom line as the group plans for its future.

“We operate like a business, and like any business, when you have less to spend, it’s hard to have the same results,” Gilbert said. “But in the end, our job is to do the best with what we have.”

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.