Champaign County’s $60 Million Business

This summer my son Alex got to talk with people from New York to the state of Washington. Not to mention people from other parts of the world like Russia, Norway and the United Kingdom.

And he traveled a mere dozen miles from our house in Urbana, Ohio, to his summer job, guiding tours at Ohio Caverns.

I bring this up because we locals often take for granted the treasures in our own backyard.

Ohio Caverns, Champaign County, Ohio

My son Alex guiding a tour this summer at Ohio Caverns.

Plus we don’t fully grasp the economic value to our community of visitors who take an interest in what we’ve got around us, or under our feet. It’s bigger business than most of us probably imagine.

$40 billion. That’s how much money visitors leave behind in Ohio each year.

$60 million. That was Champaign County’s share in 2011, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency – $45.6 million in visitors’ purchases, $11.5 million in wages for visitor-related jobs and $5.8 million in taxes paid by visitors.

Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association, shared those figures in a recent presentation, “Tourism Is Everybody’s Business,” hosted by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.

Her message: All businesses – not just those commonly considered tourist-related – benefit from attracting and welcoming visitors to Champaign County.

Opportunity to Grow

And with a more concentrated, cooperative effort, Champaign County’s income from tourism could easily be greater.

Huntley offered an example: Lake Erie lighthouses once promoted their sites individually. Then they banded together to market cooperatively, and their attendance climbed.

A similar situation is already happening in Champaign County. The 20 antique and vintage shops in downtown Urbana promote one another through Antique & Vintage Shops of Urbana.

United, they provide shoppers and visitors more choices, which has ended up convincing more people from the Dayton and Columbus metro areas to make shopping excursions to Urbana.

(And here’s how we’re collaborating with neighboring counties.)

Another key to increasing tourism is developing more overnight accommodations so visitors can stay longer and experience more of what Champaign County has to offer – to name a few examples, Ohio Caverns, Cedar Bog nature preserve, the Champaign Aviation Museum, agritourism attractions like Freshwater Farms of Ohio, the Simon Kenton Trail bike path (which stretches south to Cincinnati and soon will be headed north), and a wide range of special events, restaurants and shopping.

How to Get Involved

The Champaign County Visitors Bureau is focused on growing our tourism economy. If you’d like to join the effort, contact Sandi Arnold, executive director of the Chamber and Visitors Bureau – 937-653-5764 or She’s looking for new members to join the Visitor Bureau’s advisory group, chaired by Pat Thackery.

How do you suggest attracting more visitors to Champaign County?

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