Staff Writer

AUSTINBURG TOWNSHIP - - Ashtabula County Convention & Visitors Bureau officials are happy with the upswing in tourism dollars spent in the county by travelers and overnight visitors for 2005 and into this year, according to bureau executive director Mark Winchell.

The CVB's economic study, done by out-of-state consultants, showed $295 million in direct sales spent in the county by travelers in 2005. This includes direct and indirect sales and is a $20 million increase over 2004.

The report showed state and local taxes in 2005 totaled $28.1 million and $16.3 million respectively.

Winchell said in addition to sales, tourists supported 8,200 direct and indirect jobs in Ashtabula County.

"Our focus is on overnight visitors or leisure travelers coming here, staying a day or more, then taking in what the county has to offer. The numbers from our economic impact study just completed shows we are up 7 percent from 2004," Winchell said.

This is good news when compared to an overall state increase in tourism that is up by 4 percent, he said. The study was commissioned to Rovelstad & Associates of Wisconsin and Longwood International based in Canada.

Winchell said the same firms have done similar studies in years past for not only Ashtabula County CVB, but other county tourism councils. The county's 5 percent bed tax is divided, with the CVB getting 3 percent or between $350,000 to $400,000 for it's operations.

"This is a very comprehensive report. The economic impact study measures tourism expenditures including retail, dining, wineries, golfing, fishing and other recreation related attractions," Winchell said.

"I feel people (tourists) are realizing what Ashtabula County has in the covered bridges, Lake Erie and our wineries. After looking at the report it's a great feeling to know that our marketing is paying off," he said.

Promoting Ashtabula County's resort lodge, hotels, Lake Erie assets and countryside attractions are done through a revamped guide book, attendance at regional festivals, tourism industry and sport shows held in Ohio and other Midwest areas. A new single marketing piece, drafted by Winchell and former CVB director Gretchen Friend and completed this year, won a state award.

"It's a visitor's map. It was finished and printed in the spring. We entered it in the Ohio Association of Convention & Visitors Bureau competition. The map was chosen as the best single overall marketing piece from all the entries," Winchell said.

Star Beacon Print Edition: 9/23/2006

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