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Ohio Travel Association Year in Review

Looking Back at 2018 and What's in Store for 2019


By working together, Ohio's travel economy is strong, equipped and profitable. 

The Ohio Travel Association's mission is clear - we provide businesses and organizations who depend on a strong travel economy with an industry-led forum for creating change and making good things happen. Large or small, rural or urban, north or south - those supporting our work through membership are those who make this industry one of the top in the state. The OTA Board and staff thank you for an epic year of support and engagement. 

Here's a quick glimpse at just some of the achievements and activities over the last year. We've listed activities under our three primary goals to show you how the OTA board continues to focus on strategies you've told us are most important.

The Ohio travel industry is strong because of local, state and federal policies that provide opportunities for businesses and communities to flourish.

  • Helped defeat a statewide township admissions tax
  • Continue to lead the charge on the school start bill which would make post-Labor Day the default. OTA commissioned a statewide poll of Ohio voters, and we made sure media and policy makers heard the results through media releases, media interviews, testimony at the statehouse, and individual meetings.  
  • Continue to protect the J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor programs that supply more than 3,100 to Ohio businesses each year; jobs that wouldn't be filled otherwise.
  • Touted the power of travel to more than 1,200 Ohioans during speaking engagements. 
  • Ensured the travel industry's voice was heard while serving as a member of the statewide outdoor recreation plan advisory board, as well as an advisory board developing a statewide trails plan.
  • Provided new tools for you, including a Legislative Advocacy 101 handbook that includes fresh information on social media advocacy, hosting back-of-house tours and reading a bill.
  • Coordinated a listening session with industry members and Congressman Joyce
  • Helped coordinate more than 35 appointments between industry members and statehouse officials during Ohio Tourism Works Legislative Day, in collaboration with our partners at the Ohio Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus and the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association. 
  • Joined many of our heritage and historic preservation friends as a partner of the Ohio Statehood Day, an advocacy event focused on issues most important to heritage.

Ohio's travel economy is equipped to handle an ever-changing environment through a trained workforce, educated leadership and informed members and stakeholders

  • Melinda Huntley, OTA executive director, was named chair of the Ohio Business Coalition for Education, a new coalition representing all those businesses who rely on business skills, such as marketing, human resources and finance. Among the coalition members are those associations representing insurance, retail merchants, accountants, banking, grocers, etc. 
  • Trained more than 900 industry members through the Ohio Conference on Travel and six regional workshops. Workshop topics included those focused on website development, social media, branding, SEO and SEM, video, and customer service. 
  • Conducted a training on how to manage an active shooting situation
  • Coordinated a day-long educational event for DMO partners with topics such as crisis management, board governance, financials, working with local government and messaging.
  • Recognized top marketing achievements with the RUBY Awards
  • Graduated the 10th class of the Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy
  • Reached out to you weekly with what you need to know to stay current through eclips 
  • Developed a board governance and management survey that will be used to develop new programming.

Ohio's travel economy generates even more economic impact, jobs and tax revenues because we have focused on the quality of our experiences, added new ones, and connected with buyers.

  • Heartland Travel Showcase continues to grow, with more than $4 million in business conducted right on the show floor. 
  • Assisted 102 industry partners with issues ranging from best practices dealing with their boards to public relations tactics following an event. And if staff couldn't help them, we found other members who could.
  • Working to designate Ohio's earthworks as a World Heritage Site through UNESCO.
  • Connected dozens of media suppliers and other vendors to industry members looking for new ways to reach their customers and to do business.
  • Worked with ODNR to help launch a trails website, as well as to encourage trail development and maintenance assistance through a trails caucus and partnership meetings. 

What's Next?

The OTA Board is focused on what matters most to you. As 2019 is a budget year in Columbus, we anticipate the introduction of tax policies that may not be best for our business. With the November election, it will also mean changing priorities at all levels. That means we will have to make sure new officials are well-aware of the importance of travel to Ohio, that we protect those programs that are important to our industry and that these efforts have minimum disruption with the changing of the guard. We will also be ensuring that TourismOhio has the level of funding they need to be competitive. 

Our education efforts will continue to be a priority, as we offer new workshops and opportunities for you to stay relevant and to learn from one another. The Ohio Conference on Travel will be in Butler County next year, so we are really looking forward to that adventure. We will also be working with the Ohio Department of Education through the Ohio Business Coalition for Education, as well as through working directly with program leaders that are creating new tools for career awareness and building the career readiness of Ohioans. Look for more board development opportunities as well, a direct result of our survey this fall. And, of course, our Ohio Tourism Leadership Academy launches again in January. We are accepting applications for this program now.  

Heartland Travel Showcase is in Detroit, and we are excited about the new tour operators already registered. We'll be going into communities throughout southwest and southeast Ohio to develop a tourism strategy for World Heritage designation, and we will be supporting our partners at the Ohio History Connection as they complete the nomination dossier. 

We invite you to reach out to us at any time with thoughts or ideas. You can reach out directly to your regional representatives who serve on the OTA board, or contact Melinda Huntley at We'd love to hear from you.   

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