July 30, 2014

Elyria
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Tourists benefit county’s economy

AMHERST — It may be tempting for local businesses to gut prices in the hopes of attracting customers, but state Tourism Director Amir Eylon said that might only make things worse.

In a presentation on tourism in Ohio and what local business can do to attract out-of-staters who visit, Eylon said customers want value for their money, and that doesn’t always mean rock-bottom prices.

“Sometimes it’s an extra amenity, something they can tell their friends, ‘The place I went to cost about the same as everywhere else, but look at what I got,’ ” he said. “Plus, if you’re a hotel, for example, and you slash your prices from $100 to $60, do you think you’re going to be able to go right back to $100 a few months later? No. You’ll have to do it a little at a time, and it takes forever to get back up there.”

Eylon said that while the state’s tourism industry has certainly taken a beating from the bleak economy, it has also been helped with more people choosing to avoid the Florida vacation and stick closer to home, which often means visiting Ohio attractions, even for Pennsylvania or West Virginia residents.

Last year, visitors to Ohio spent $25 billion in the state, which generated $39 billion in sales related to those visitors, such as supplies. The money visitors spent also supported 452,000 full-time jobs and generated more than $10 billion in payroll.

Lorain County has also benefited from tourism, Eylon said. In 2007, the last year he had statistics for, visitors spent $298 million in Lorain County, generating $437 million in related sales and $121 million in wages.

“Tourism is definitely a part of the fabric of Ohio’s economy,” he said.

Eylon encouraged business owners, who comprised most of the 50 or so people who attended the talk at Visit Lorain County off Leavitt Road, to have a Web site for their business and to make it as user-friendly as possible for people considering coming to Lorain County to stop in their store or restaurant.

He told those who attended to get on the state’s tourism department Web site, www.discoverohio.com, so they can learn about marketing and other opportunities the state offers to businesses in an effort to attract tourists.

Phyllis Fabian, owner of Fabyan’s restaurant in downtown Lorain, said she likes that there are people in Columbus that still want to see small businesses succeed.

“I get excited whenever there’s so much energy surrounding business,” she said.

Lorain Port Authority Executive Director Rick Novak said another big addition to Lorain County tourism will be the Jet Express ferry that will take people from the Lorain harbor to the Lake Erie Islands. The ferry is expected to attract people from all over Northeast Ohio, who before had to drive past Sandusky in order to get to the islands, Novak said.

Bad weather has delayed the ship’s arrival in Lorain, which was supposed to happen before the Fourth of July weekend, but Novak said he expects it soon. Prices and other details about the shuttle service have not been decided, he said.

Contact Adam Wright at 329-7129 or awright@chroniclet.com.