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Has Cleveland Finally Realized Its Destiny As A Destination?

Photo by ideastream's Brian Bull.
Photo by ideastream's Brian Bull.

By ideastream's Brian Bull

Burning river jokes?  That’s so 1969.  And 1952.  And…well, let’s move on. 

Earlier this summer, the  New York Times listed Cleveland alongside Milan, Tanzania, and Sri Lanka among its “52 Places to Visit in 2015.”  With summer officially closed out by the Labor Day holiday weekend, we checked in to see if tourists indeed made the North Coast a destination.  

For its shuttered factories, vacant homes, and county corruption trials, Cleveland’s had a bad rap for a while.  But Mike Burns, Senior Vice President for Convention Sales and Services with Destination Cleveland, says there’s evidence attitudes are changing.

“Talking to people and when you tell them you’re from Cleveland…three years ago it might’ve been…a remark about, ’Oh, I’m sorry',” says Burns. "Today, when I tell people I’m from Cleveland,  the response is, ‘Wow, I don’t know what’s going on there but you guys are on fire right now’ and they mean that in the most positive sense.” 

The LA Times and Travel & Leisure have also listed Cleveland as the place to see.  Hotel occupancy numbers for this holiday weekend won’t be finalized for several weeks, but Burns says reservations were strong.

“Anecdotally, everybody’s running about 95 percent or higher downtown which compares to about 86 percent last year, 73 percent the year before.” 

The year ahead also promises to be good for Greater Cleveland hotels.  With the Republican National Convention taking place next July, many have committed most of their rooms to accommodate the tens of thousands of expected visitors.