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National travel industry advocate Roger Rickard will bring his message to Columbus next week, when local industry executives will hear about new statistics on the economic impact of tourism.
Rickard said he already was familiar with Columbus — largely because of its reputation in architectural circles — even before he was invited to speak during Tuesday’s Columbus Area Visitors Center’s annual meeting.
“It’s like Columbus is the biggest small town in America. It’s known for Midwest values, diversity as well as its architecture,” Rickard said in a recent telephone interview.
The community’s recent push to attract sports-related travel by hosting golf, youth soccer and adult softball tournaments is another smart move to boost tourism spending in Columbus, he said.
Sports events allow local residents to see visitors flying their sports teams’ colors or wearing uniforms around town. It helps people understand the impact tourism spending has on the local economy, Rickard said.
Rickard, author of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Advocates,” speaks frequently to tourism industry gatherings to discuss the financial impact of tourism on national and local economies.
His local program is 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center.
“The tourism industry here continues to grow, especially in the areas of youth sports tournaments, which help fill our hotel rooms on weekends,” said Lynn Lucas, executive director of the Columbus Area Visitors Center.
“We also continue to attract tourists for corporate and military work, as well as leisure travelers visiting for our art and architecture,” she said.
However, Lucas hopes information from the annual meeting guides industry executives on how to become better advocates of meetings and conventions as a way to add jobs and more tax revenue to the community’s coffers.
More than 100 representatives from area hotels, restaurants, sports tourism professionals, festivals and other community leaders are expected to attend.
The general public also is invited.
“I heard Roger speak at the state Hoosier Hospitality Conference this spring and thought it would be great for our community to hear him,” Lucas said.
“He is a great storyteller, and he helps you see how what we’re doing is important and inspires you to share stories about the power of tourism,” she said.
Rickard’s appearance comes as the travel industry is beginning to show signs of life after a lull tied to weakness and poor job growth in the national economy.
Rickard is founder of a group called Voices in Advocacy. He also is a partner in Revent LLC, a Rocklin,
Calif.-based firm that teaches individuals and groups how to exert influence on public policy and social issues.
Known as a colorful speaker, Rickard generally uses his appearances to tout the value of face-to-face meetings in government and industry.
A prolific user of Twitter, Rickard sends out upbeat tweets such as, “When we meet face to face, we change the world.” And, “What have you done this week to communicate the value of what happens when we meet face to face?”
One recent U.S. Labor Department jobs report singled out the tourism industry as the source of 14,000 new jobs in August, which was 9 percent of all private-sector jobs added last month.
That growth rate matched the level of employment growth created by the U.S. manufacturing sector for the same period, federal statistics showed.
Rickard said the corporate and nonprofit association travel business has picked up steam in recent months, but government travel still lags amid budget cuts and federal sequestration.
“I’m pretty certain we’ll see that government travel number tumble even more in the next 12 to 24 months,” he said.
Rickard, who travels for speaking engagements and business meetings almost every week, said the value of visitors coming to a community cannot be overstated.
“A total of 1.7 million people work full time in the meetings business in the U.S., and if you add in indirect and induced jobs, the total reaches 6.3 million,” he said.
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