Tourism $ on rise for Sidney, Shelby County

Tourism is big business in Ohio. Local events such as the Mayfest Soccer tournament and the upcoming Country Concert help bring visitors and their dollars to Sidney and Shelby County.

SIDNEY — Entertainment value will skyrocket when headliners such as Carrie Underwood, Jake Owens and the Florida Georgia Line wow audiences at the popular Country Concert performances in Fort Loramie the weekend of July 9-11. But nothing can compare to the regional economic impact — early $16 million — venues such as this have on Shelby County, Sidney and surrounding areas.

The Country Concert extravaganza, Mayfest Soccer Classic and other regional attractions are contributing to the upward surge in Ohio tourism, according to statistics recently released by Mary Cusick, director of TourismOhio. In 2014, economic impact data revealed Ohio saw an estimated 200 million visits, 38 million overnight visits, $40 billion in visitor spending and 412,000 tourism-related jobs. All represent a significant increase over 2013 stats.

“Day-trippers spend an average of $112 each, while overnight guests spend an average of $341,” according to Cusick, whose state agency is charged with promoting travel within the state of Ohio.

‘The conservatively estimated regional economic impact of this year’s Country Concert is just under $16 million,” according to Jeff Raible, president of the Sidney/Shelby Council Chamber of Commerce and Sidney Visitors Bureau. “We emphasize ‘regional economic impact‘ because there are insufficient hotel rooms in Shelby County to accommodate all guests who desire them. As such, these guests must secure overnight stays in neighboring counties.”

Last year’s concert ticket sales were 74,258 which, if broken down, didn’t account for monies spent on hotels, campgrounds, meals, refreshments/snacks, fuel and other incidentals. All in all, it’s been calculated concert attendees dig deeper into their pocketbooks than the average day-tripper visiting other Ohio attractions.

The payout for the Country Concert series coupled with 2015 Bensar Mayfest Soccer Classic provides an economic boon for both Sidney and Shelby County. Notes Raible “The economic impact of this Sidney-based event is much more localized as we do have an inventory of hotel rooms in Sidney to accommodate the guests visiting here from outside the area. Its economic impact is projected at just under $922,000 with 5,535 team players, family members and referees converging upon Sidney for the popular weekend event.

Perhaps no one could be happier with the 6 percent lodging tax receipts than the city of Sidney, which over the past several years has seen a continued climb. Raible suggests that “relative to lodging tax receipts in general, we are happy to see that historically they are on the rise in Sidney. Receipts totaling $234,378 in 2012 jumped to $261,059 in 2013 and totaled $292,101 in 2014. Year-to-date receipts up through April amounted to $119,502 representing a 36 percent jump over the same period in 2014.

“Although we have no research data specific to total visitor spending in Sidney and Shelby County, the continuing increase in lodging tax receipts certainly suggests that visitors to this area are contributing meaningfully to our community’s economic well-being.”

Stacy Nelson, general manager of The Hampton Inn the past 10 years, has been an active member of both the Chamber of Commerce and Sidney Visitors Bureau. An enthusiastic supporter of the Sidney community, she indicates receipts from the 6 percent lodging tax fluctuate based upon occupancy and rates. The average room rate for guests staying in the 94-room lodging adjacent to I-75 is $139. Occupancy has been so good in recent years that the Hampton added a 32-room wing in 2008, and the Holiday Inn Express opened its doors in Sidney this past year.

Lodging tax receipts, she noted, are earmarked 25 percent for the Sidney Visitors Bureau with the remainder the “city retains for various uses.”

Raible responded “As for the 25-75 split of lodging tax receipts, I really have no comment. This was the original arrangement adopted by the Sidney City Council back in January 2002 and its construct continues to serve our community well.”

Tourism is thriving, according to Nelson, who suggested room reservations for the Country Concert series have been booked the past six months with a waiting list in tow. She, too, credits the Mayfest Soccer weekend as instrumental to the tourism surge as well as Eldora Speedway, Gateway Arts Council attractions, and the revitalization of downtown Sidney — with its historical theater — as examples. Manufacturers in both Sidney and Shelby County — as well as Auglaize County — are also expanding their plants and technology drawing in a greater number of visitors and prospective employees.

“Sidney is very friendly,” she said. “There’s more to offer than most people realize.”

“We are seeing steady growth in Ohio’s tourism industry with $40 billion in sales in 2014,” concluded Cusick. “The economic tailwinds for tourism spending include more jobs and more discretionary income. Ohio’s location within a day’s drive of about 60 percent of the U.S. population works to our favor as well especially with the low fuel prices. We are directing the TourismOhio budget to take full advantage of those factors along with the great variety in experiences our tourism industry offers to lead Ohioans and visitors to travel experiences relevant to them.”