CLEVELAND — Destination Cleveland has released its projections regarding Cuyahoga County’s final tourism numbers for 2020. Unfortunately, the outlook is not good.
Cuyahoga’s top tourism organization brought in Adam Sacks of Tourism Economics to forecast the upcoming year, and he predicts visitation to the county this year will fall by as much as 67% from 2019 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Coupled with reduced tax revenue, this will lead to “significant permanent job loss,” and Sacks says the county likely won’t return to normal levels until 2024.
"As a health crisis combined with an economic crisis, it will take longer for the travel and tourism industry to recover than its resurgence following the Great Recession of 2008," Sacks said.
The United States has struggled to get a handle on the coronavirus crisis, with by far the highest number of cases and deaths of any country in the world. While Ohio has fared better than most states, the economic shutdown back in the spring had a devastating effect on the state’s economy, a hardship felt across much of the rest of America.
Businesses are gradually reopening, but case numbers are now at their highest levels of the pandemic. In addition, Cuyahoga County is now in danger of rising to a Level 4 "purple" alert in the Ohio Department of Health’s COVID-19 system.
The economic projections are particularly disheartening given the growth that has occurred in Northeast Ohio over the past decade, and Destination Cleveland confirms 2019 saw a record 19.6 million visitors to Cuyahoga County. These tourists, the group says, provided a total economic impact of $9.7 billion along with $1.2 billion in tax revenues, saving each county household an estimated $1,150 last year.
Destination Cleveland president and CEO David Gilbert added:
"While it’s been a tremendously challenging 2020, it’s important that we celebrate travel and tourism’s continued position as a growth industry for Cuyahoga County in 2019. The region was on its way to achieving Destination Cleveland’s goal of 20 million annual visitors by the end of 2020 with a ninth consecutive record-breaking year and our visitation growth rate again exceeding that of the nation and the state. Travel and tourism remains a key industry for Cleveland’s future."
In the meantime, Destination Cleveland is working to keep businesses running through its “CLEAN COMMITTED” program, which encourages health and safety protocols and also helps direct residents to places with best practices. This will evolve and continue as locations look to adapt to the colder winter months.
Roughly 70,000 jobs in Cuyahoga County depend on local tourism, according to officials; it is unknown just how many could be lost in the current recession.