As an overseas destination for travelers to the United States, Ohio doesn’t register among the top ten states. Nor does it even make the top 20. But, buoyed by some major attention-grabbing events in the past several years, along with its selection as a new destination/connecting hub for low-cost international carriers, the state is bucking the flat-to-less-than-zero-increase trend in international arrivals.
For the Ohio officials, as well as the DMOs in the state who have been working the international market over the years, the state’s increased profile is no mistake. Building steadily, the number of overseas arrivals increased in the decade of 2007-2016 by more than 25 percent—from 311,000 visitors in 2007 to 391,000 in 2016.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Travel and Tourism Office
There is no special magic to the state’s international marketing efforts. What works is the combination of promotions that include special events that give the state and its major cities visibility on a global scale; working as a part of a regional effort; and, well, kismet (i.e., it doesn’t hurt to be in just the right place in the United States as low-cost international airlines are looking for less crowded, non-gateway places to establish new routes into the USA).
Special Events: Last year, Cleveland hosted the Republican National Convention, an event that attracted worldwide attention. For the third year in a row, it was one of the two host cities (the other being Oakland/San Francisco) whose basketball teams played in the NBA Championship Finals—an event that has a global following. Likewise, the annual induction ceremony into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame—it takes place April 29 this year in Cleveland—is a major draw for those who follow and the news media who report on, the musical genre that was born in the USA.
Regional Approach: The Great Lakes USA (the region it represents comprises Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania) has a high profile at international trade shows and has benefited from a 16 percent over the past five years.
Kismet? It is no secret that Ohio is not a gateway destination or a top ten destination. However, returning visitors who have visited such places at New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas begin looking for destinations and experiences that are “beyond the gateway”—places such as Ohio and the Great Lakes Region. And it is helping the state now that Brand USA’s programs abroad feature secondary and tertiary destinations. At the same time, new and/or low cost international carriers have found it easier to make connections to places such as Cleveland. (See screen shots below of the websites from WOW airlines and Icelandair.) Both carriers will launch service to Cleveland in May 2018, and WOW will start service to Cincinnati the same month.
The bonus for Cleveland is that both WOW and Icelandair will connect from major cities throughout Europe and the Middle East through their base, Reykjavik’s Keflavik International Airport.