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On Monday, I had the opportunity to attend the Destination Cleveland annual meeting.The meeting talked about the progress made in the travel and tourism industry over the last year, as well as plans for the future.
The theme for the meeting and beyond is “Cleveland. It’s go time.”
And it certainly is go time for Cleveland. With the Republican National Convention on it’s way and the national spotlight on us, not just for the RNC, but for the Cavs and the many travel articles touting Cleveland as one of the top spots to visit in 2015, Cleveland is no longer simply poised for greatness. We are launched into it.
The meeting kicked off with a panel discussion featuring David Gilbert, President and CEO of Destination Cleveland; Dan Walsh, CEO of Citymark Capital; City of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; and Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish.
The focus of the panel was on the impact that the RNC is and will continue to have on Cleveland. Mayor Frank Jackson spoke about the positive attitude that Clevelanders displayed once the convention was announced. “We won,” he said. “We didn’t come in second. We didn’t do a good job. We won.” And that winning is a powerful shot in the arm.
Aside from positive vibes, the RNC will have a major impact on travel, tourism, and infrastructure, not just during the convention, but in the years to come.
This video is a great way to highlight how the city is preparing and the result of the positive energy that Mayor Jackson spoke about.
After the panel discussion came the keynote speaker, Cleveland’s own beloved celebrity chef, Michael Symon.
Chef Symon spoke about falling in love with Cleveland by visiting places like the West Side Market, at the heart of the city’s urban core. And that, even if you live in the suburbs, supporting Cleveland’s urban center is hugely important. He also talked about never doubting that Cleveland would have a resurgence, because he’s never doubted in the people who make up our city.
If you know Chef Symon at all, though, you know it wasn’t all serious talk and there were plenty of jokes and light moments about what Clevelanders consider rush hour, the proper name for the Indians ballpark (“It’s The Jake, dammit”) and more. Ultimately, Chef Symon encouraged everyone there to be passionate advocates for Cleveland. And there is no better example of that than Chef Symon!
David Gilbert throughout the meeting showed us facts proving how powerful we can be as passionate advocates for Cleveland. There has been tremendous growth in the travel and tourism sector, but not only that, there has been a large uptick in the percentage of Clevelanders who would recommend their hometown as a tourist destination.
And getting people into Cleveland works. Visitors have positive impressions of the city, want to come back, and 32% of new residents in a community initially visit that place as a tourist.
So, it’s not just about the RNC or any one event, but a continually growing of travel and tourism, seizing of opportunities, and advocating for our city among our own friends and family. Put more simply: Cleveland. It’s go time.
After the meeting, we got a chance to mingle and enjoy some fine food, drink, and music on the floor of Quicken Loans Arena.
As I took in the entire scene, I was overwhelmed not just by the positive feelings for Cleveland, but by gratitude to be a part of this community of Cleveland advocates. There were attendees at the Destination Cleveland meeting from all of the Cleveland institutions I love and cherish, including Playhouse Square, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Cleveland Metroparks, and so many more. To have been asked to attend, to be considered in even a small way a part of this larger conversation about our amazing city, is truly an honor and something I don’t take for granted.
I love you, CLE, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!
***Disclosure: I was invited by Destination Cleveland to attend the annual meeting. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.***