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Cleveland tourism poised to make a comeback this summer

Experts are optimistic the travel industry can recover from a disappointing 2020.

CLEVELAND — One of the hardest hit industries throughout the pandemic has been tourism.

Ohio lost billions in revenue last year, but with the state opening back up, a change may be on the horizon for the 2021 summer season. 

The travel industry has been struggling through the pandemic.

Ohio travel took a $14.5 billion hit between March 2020 and April 2021, but with a pandemic record 89% of American travelers planning a trip in the next six months, the light at the end of the tunnel is growing, and Cleveland hopes to bask in its glow.

"Promising statistics I've seen come out in the last week or so [show] growing confidence in visiting cities," Melinda Huntley, president of the Ohio Travel Association, said.

If the NFL draft showed us anything, it's that Cleveland can get out and have fun safely.

"We had well over 150,000 people over three days - all doing it in a safe and distanced way," David Gilbert, CEO of Destination Cleveland, told 3News.

RELATED: Cleveland using NFL Draft momentum to bring people to the city

"That is giving us hope," Huntley added. "We are now seeing some numbers coming in that say, 'Look, people are comfortable visiting some more urban areas - more comfortable than they were last year.'"

According to a Columbus-based travel & tourism research agency, 31% of travelers want a destination they can drive to as opposed to fly.

"People will come in from a three or four-hour drive and come in for a few days, and all the research is showing that, as people are coming back, that is first and foremost what they will be doing," Gilbert said.

Bringing visitors to the state is a top priority for the Ohio Tourism Agency, which is overseen by the state’s Development Services Agency that helps create jobs and build communities in the state. OTA launched a $4 million marketing campaign targeting people looking for adventure in Ohio.

"In sharing all there is to do and all that Cleveland and Northeast Ohio have to offer, it would take 30 minutes for me to go through everything," Huntley gushed.

The Columbus-based agency found 53% of people support opening up their communities to visitors, and 60% feel safe traveling outside their community. Ohio officially opens up on June 2, when nearly all of the state's health orders will be lifted.

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