COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Tourism officials are predicting this summer will be a record-breaking year for visitors to Columbus, starting with the holiday weekend.
The city sees more than 42 million visitors annually — and those numbers are consistently rising, said Michelle Wilson, the director of destination experience for Experience Columbus. From the National Veterans’ Memorial and Museum to grand openings of hotels, she said there are tons of things to do in Columbus during Memorial Day weekend.
“The more people that come in, the more spending there is,” Wilson said.
Experience Columbus’ first quarter report showed events and conventions — like the Arnold Sports Festival and the NCAA March Madness tournament — brought in close to $30 million in direct visitor spending.
Between the holiday weekend and the Memorial Tournament, Experience Columbus is expecting big spending numbers again.
“2019 was of course kind of our banner year, and then the pandemic hit, so we have been building back up, but we have been doing really well and very close to exceeding those 2019 numbers already,” Wilson said.
Columbus air travel officials said the city is soaring past records, too.
“Our Memorial Day travel figures are about 10% higher than we saw last year in 2022, and for the entire summer we are actually expecting to surpass our record-breaking 2019 year,” said Sarah McQuaide, the communications manager for the Columbus Regional Airport Authority.
Columbus airports are expecting around 15,000 arriving and 15,000 departing passengers each day of the weekend. From June 1 to July 31, McQuaide said, they are expecting one million travelers to fly through Columbus airports. With each traveler likely comes money at restaurants, hotels and businesses.
This fuels the paychecks of thousands of jobs in Columbus.
“One in every 15 jobs is tourism-related,” Wilson said. “Tourism impacts many, many industries that you don’t necessarily think of off the top of your head, but it is very engraved in this community.”
Experience Columbus believes the momentum will continue with the Memorial Tournament next week. Historically, Wilson said, that is one of the busiest weekends of the year.
“The Memorial Tournament brings in thousands upon thousands of visitors and just a wonderful impact to the restaurants and the shopping and hotels while people are in the city,” Wilson said.
Columbus airports are offering more non-stop flights than before.
“Now is a really great time to fly. We have 50 non-stop destinations offered from CMH and Rickenbacker, and that’s actually more than we had prior to the pandemic. We also have 11 different airlines to choose from, including the brand-new airline here at CMH: Sun Country airlines, which just launched their first flight a few weeks back,” McQuaide said.
Air travel officials recommended anyone traveling this weekend to arrive early, and check flycolumbus.com or download their airline’s mobile app for flight information.