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New brand identity, commitment to diversity highlights Destination Cleveland's next chapter

The non-profit organization outlined a three-year strategic plan to boost visitation to Cleveland at its annual meeting on Monday.

CLEVELAND — Destination Cleveland held its annual meeting Monday, announcing a new three-year strategic plan and a refreshed brand identity as the organization attempts to regain momentum from its pre-pandemic levels in luring tourists to explore Cleveland.

The private non-profit dedicated to driving economic impact through tourism and visitation to Cuyahoga County rolled out a new marketing campaign under the tagline “The Land for Life.” In addition to new written and video content for Destination Cleveland’s website, the organization will fund advertisements in Columbus, Cincinnati, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.

As part of the campaign, Destination Cleveland plans to introduce a storytelling series putting Cleveland residents at the forefront. In a press release, the organization said the content “will be centered around Clevelanders answering questions, telling their stories and showing off their pride for The Land.”

“We are confident the refreshed brand will inspire people to experience Cleveland’s unpretentious creativity, fun and determination and ultimately get visitors to consider Cleveland as a place to live and work,” said David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland. “By highlighting residents in our new campaign, we’ll introduce potential visitors to our greatest asset – our people – before they even arrive and build pride locally as residents share their authentic experiences and views about our great city.”

In addition to the new branding, Destination Cleveland detailed its strategic plan for the years 2022-2025. The plan outlines a set of four main goals:

  • Increase visitation and attract visitors to measurably affect economic growth
  • Strengthen perceptions and the narrative of Cleveland
  • Amplify and enhance authentic and unique destination experiences across the region
  • Leverage organizational expertise, capabilities and relationships to advance community priorities that align with Destination Cleveland’s mission

One aspect of the plan calls for the organization to put diversity, equity and inclusion at the forefront of its operations. A commitment to diversity was included in a list of guiding principles on which the strategic plan was based. The revamped website also includes sections highlighting Cleveland’s Black, AAPI and LGBTQ+ communities.

“To strengthen Cleveland as a diverse, equitable and inclusive place to visit, Destination Cleveland will pursue a variety of initiatives including programming that educates and engages hospitality businesses to ensure Cleveland looks, acts and feels like the diverse and inclusive destination it is,” the press release read.

The new efforts come as the organization continues to dig its way out of the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. After boasting nearly a decade of visitation growth outpacing the domestic travel growth rate from 2011-2019, 2020 saw a 30% visitation decrease.

Destination Cleveland says progress has been made since then: hotel occupancy in Cuyahoga County increased 38 percent over 2021, an increase seven percent higher than the national occupancy rate over that span, and as of May of the numbers are continuing to improve at a faster pace than the national average. 

Joe Pinney, chair of Destination Cleveland’s board of directors, said the organization is optimistic the city can return to pre-pandemic tourism levels by 2024.

“As we’ve rebuilt from the pandemic’s devastation, we started from a solid base, and we're applying our learnings and coming together to propel the industry and community forward,” Pinney said. “It’s time to make travel and tourism a growth industry for Cleveland again.”

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