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The importance of travel and tourism

As I prepared to write this column, I began to think about the pre-COVID days in the travel and tourism industry.

I feel comfortable saying that most in the industry could not have predicted the impact that a pandemic would have on their business.

When COVID-19 hit, the travel and tourism industry was the first to feel the impact.

Last April, over 51% of jobs in the hospitality industry were lost. Lodging tax collections were down by more than 30%. The decline in lodging tax receipts meant less visitors were in the area spending.

Most of our events were canceled and venues closed. Our message changed from marketing events and attractions to ensuring the health and safety of our residents and visitors.

We have all had to adjust to many changes.

We have not only had to adjust to social changes, but also political and economic changes.

With grim data being released daily, the industry is studying what travel will look like post COVID-19.

Data shares that 81% of travelers plan to travel in the next six months, with 45% visiting friends and family.

Fewer will be traveling by way of air and fewer are planning a stay at a large resort.

Many will simply take a road trip.

All of this data puts Appalachian Ohio in a good spot, because many have realized that this area is a great place to live, learn, work and play.

Tourism is an economic driver and is reshaping Appalachian Ohio. The 2019 Economic Impact of Tourism study in our region shows the significance tourism has in the area.

Visitors to the Appalachian region spent $3.8 billion in 2019, which generated $5.9 billion in business sales.

Overnight visitors spend on average $379.

Because of the new trends and with safety and health at the forefront when planning a trip, I suspect these numbers to see growth when the 2021 study is available.

So, why is this information important for us in our area?

Because, we have the opportunity to attract more people. We have what the traveler is looking for.

We have three scenic byways, campgrounds, open recreational waters, and charming communities with inspiring places.

We are the home of one of the most talked about events in the Ohio Valley, the Blame My Roots Festival, this year headlined by Miranda Lambert.

We have areas in our county that will awe you with the landscape. These are all things that attract visitors to our area.

These are all integral parts of the local economy.

Visitors generate significant economic benefits to households, businesses and government alike and represent a critical driver of our area’s future.

So, again, why is this information important for us in our area? The tourism industry is everyone’s business, from the attractions, hotels and other businesses that directly service customers, like restaurants and retailers, to suppliers of these businesses such as accountants, farmers, lawyers, architects, and engineers.

The tourism industry includes small businesses, like our locally owned shops as well as our corporate giants.

You see, this is why the travel and tourism industry is a smart investment for our area.

All this information tells us that supporting local travel and tourism is more important now than ever, and I ask that you to support the travel and tourism industry in our county.

When money is spent locally, you stimulate the local economy and a high percentage of that money will be recirculated in our communities, through hiring local employees or purchasing local support needs for our businesses. So, once you feel safe to do so, be a tourist at home.

I guarantee that for most, there is at least one if not more attractions or events in our county that you have not been to.

Barb Ballint, executive director of the Belmont County Tourism. provides information about the tourism office, local attractions, upcoming events, and other local finds in Belmont County. Each month she shares information about the travel and tourism industry and its impact on our local economy.

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