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Local Officials To Use JD Power Ranking To Further Boost Tourism

In a recent study, marketing and research firm J.D. Power ranked Columbus as "Highest in Visitor Satisfaction in the Midwest." Thursday's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum explored details of the study and how the city's tourism group will use the results to improve even more. Mike Foley reports.

The J.D. Power Destination Experience Satisfaction Study assessed visitors to the top 50 U.S. travel spots. The 130-question survey focused on six major areas: travel and arrival, infrastructure, lodging, food and beverage, activities and cost.  More than 26,000 travelers – or about 400 per destination – responded. All visits took place between December 2015 and July 2016. J.D. Power’s Jennifer Corwin says Columbus did especially well in food and beverage, value for the money spent and the ease at which visitors could get around the city. Columbus annually attracts more than 39 million visitors who directly spend $6.4 billion. But Corwin says with just a slight improvement in satisfaction would result in even more economic impact.

“We see a link from moving people up the satisfaction scale. If moving an 8 or a 9 to a 10 is about $250, if you move them from a 1 to a 10, that’s a greater spend, right?  In terms of Columbus specifically, we see that about 18 percent of visitors are currently in that 10 range. 51 percent of visitors are an 8 to a 9. So that’s a great opportunity to move people who are already really satisfied to just a little bit more satisfied. And if you can do that – when you add in the actual spend amongst cities of a similar size to Columbus and then the 39 million visitors that you guys have every year, it comes out to be about $780 million just moving about 5 percentage points.”

Experience Columbus President and CEO Brian Ross calls the award prestigious and a point of pride for Columbus. But the head of the city’s tourism bureau also wants to build on the momentum rather than rest on the ranking.

“We are going to really dive into the data to understand how and what made those individuals fall into the favorable and then understand where the areas are that we can make better and close gaps. But also take the different areas whether it’s the price points, connectivity, just the overall experience – find those key areas and even get better at those so we can move some of those people into the 18 percent, which is that percent they are just blown away and love the community. Particularly with our partnerships and how we look at challenges here in Columbus and work collaboratively, I see that as being able to accomplish that.”  

One trend in Columbus and other cities according to the survey – business travelers are more satisfied than leisure visitors. But in some cases, business travelers are extending their trips for leisure. Experience Columbus also notes great success with its ambassador program. Officials say 3100 residents have been certified as tourism ambassadors since the program launched in 2013. 

Mike Foley joined WCBE in February 2000, coming from WUFT in Gainesville, Florida. Foley has worked in various roles, from producing news and feature stories to engineering Live From Studio A sessions. A series of music features Foley started in 2018 called Music Journeys has grown into a podcast and radio show. He also assists in developing other programs in WCBE's Podcast Experience. Foley hosts The Morning Mix, a weekday music show featuring emerging and established musicians, our Columbus-area and Ohio-based talent, and additional artists that inspire him.
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