News: More Than a Pit Stop

To some, Cincinnati is but a stop on the way to popular summer vacation spots, though tourism experts say the city has a certain draw

Jymi Bolden

Operators of the Newport Aquarium expect 40 percent of their visitors to come from outside of the Greater Cincinnati area.

Fish, roller coasters, musical festivals and professional sports are among Cincinnati's trappings for tourists. But experts say more people would prefer to sun on a real beach than zoom down water slides at The Beach Waterpark, though Cincinnati has been marketing itself well.

"Cincinnati has a great mix of what we call products," said Tom Berrigan, director of communications for the Travel Industry Association of America. "It's a great place to visit for a few days and take in a sporting event or go on one of the riverboats. People do those kind of things over a long weekend instead of a whole week."

According to the Travel Association of America's annual report, 271 million people countrywide are planning vacations this summer. Berrigan said that is a 4 percent increase caused by a growing economy and more consumer buying power.

But the group also expects the increase to primarily affect states such as Florida, California and Hawaii because of the tremendous attraction to the beach as a hot spot for summer vacations, he said.

"We think there will be something like 77 percent of all vacationers heading for the beach," Berrigan said. "Cincinnati is a lot like other cities because it is landlocked.

But we think that most of the people going on trips are getting there by car."

This means that a city like Cincinnati, which borders two states, could cash in on some of those travelers needing a bathroom break, he said.

Gayle Harden-Renfro, communications director for the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city is expecting and hoping that some travelers will use Cincinnati as a stop-over en route to their destination.

"Things are definitely booming around here and although we can't compete with a real beach, we certainly have a great deal to offer," she said.

The expectation is that once people use Cincinnati as a pit stop they will see what there is to do and return for a longer stay.

"I think what we have is a large variety of things to do and see," Harden-Renfro said.

The Coors Light Jazz Festival in July is the event that draws the most visitors from outside a 500-mile radius, she said. Paramount's Kings Island, the Cincinnati Zoo and Riverbend are other places and attractions that bring tourists to the city, she said

The newest attraction tourism promoters are touting is the Newport Aquarium.

"We are anticipating that 40 percent of the people that come see the aquarium will be coming from outside Greater Cincinnati," said Lisa Popyk, aquarium public relations manager. "I think there will be a regional tourism impact."

Popyk also said that because of some of the unique aspects of the aquarium such as the five underwater tunnels and the "heavy splash of Hollywood," travelers will be pulled in from all over the country.

But Berrigan thinks that exotic fish and musical events are not the reasons behind Cincinnati's success in marketing for tourists.

"It's those professional sports teams," he said. "Sports tend to be a very big part of travel plans. So, if you got it, you have to market it."

Berrigan said Cincinnati also has done a good job getting conventions and businesses to visit the city.

"There is this trend where people now bring their spouse or their children along with them on a business trip," Berrigan said.

People are sometimes too busy for a vacation and try to mix business with pleasure, he said.

Cincinnati caters to these "alternative travel options," he said.

"Cincinnati will hold its own very well this summer," Berrigan said. "It takes what it has and then sells it to the right group." ©