At Annual Meeting, Destination Cleveland Announces Goal of Attracting 20 Million Visitors to Cleveland


  • Jeff Niesel
Held earlier today at Playhouse Square, Destination Cleveland’s annual meeting began with a video hyping the accomplishments of the last decade (you know, the big events that came to town such as the Republican National Convention and the recent MLB All-Star Game) and promoting the goal of having 20 million visitors come to the city this year.

Jon Pinney, the organization’s new Chairman of its Board of Directors, shared his resolve to build upon Destination Cleveland’s success and the leadership of his predecessors and position the organization to have a continued positive effect on the community.

Pinney spoke about starting a new decade and a “new strategic plan” that will involve “pushing the envelope.”

“Destination Cleveland’s primary goal is to attract visitors,” he said.

President and CEO David Gilbert then spoke at length about the “halo effect” of visitor marketing. “Our mission is to improve Cleveland’s image and attract visitors,” he said.

Engaging visitors when they’re here creates “an ecosystem ready to help potential new residents,” he said, employing some of the jargon that convention bureau execs like to use when talking about their goals and aspirations.

Gilbert talked about how Destination Cleveland reached out to Cincinnati and Pittsburgh to attract visitors from those city’s to last year’s MLB All-Star Game, and he spoke about hosting The Bachelor viewing parties in both Cleveland and other cities to show viewers how well Cleveland came off in a recent episode of the reality TV show that showed Cleveland as a particularly idyllic location complete with soap box derby races on Euclid Ave. and pierogi carts on Public Square.

Gilbert said the Visit Me in CLE campaign has been very successful and would continue this year, and he said that the annual brewery passport has also been a success. Some 2500 people redeemed their passports last year after stopping at the thirtysomething local breweries that participated in the program.

Gilbert thanked Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams and Carolyn Williams, vice president of law enforcement at the Federal Reserve Bank, for helping Cleveland land the upcoming National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) that’ll come to town this summer.

Then, Gilbert spoke about the need for new “immersive experiences” and said Destination Cleveland has partnered with the Cleveland Leadership Center to explore more “authentic Cleveland experiences.”

Notable conventions on the horizon include an upcoming American Society of Association Executives annual meeting that'll be in Cleveland in 2024 and the upcoming National Association of Black Journalists convention that'll come to Cleveland in 2025. In a video clip, NABJ Executive Director Drew Berry spoke about how excited he was to bring the journalist convention to Cleveland in 2025.

Likening attracting new residents to the act of turning first dates into long-term relationships, Gilbert pointed out that visitations to Cleveland have increased at a higher percentage than the national average for attracting new visitors to American cities.

“Travel and tourism has become a growth industry in Northeast Ohio,” said Gilbert. “We will not stop innovating.”

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