Gov. John Kasich says Ohio needs to promote itself better and hopes a new tourism director will help solve the problem.

“It’s been on my mind for a long time, and now we’re going to have a lot more focus” on marketing, Kasich said yesterday. “Our tourism operation needs to be improved. We had a change in leadership there. (Development Services Agency Director) David Goodman’s looking for somebody. We’ve got to take advantage of the new media, to be able to sell the state.”

Former Ohio tourism director Amir Eylon left his post in June 2012 after accepting a position as a vice president for the United States’ public-private tourism firm, Brand USA. Improving Ohio’s promotional efforts is something Kasich has discussed publicly with growing frequency over the past few months, and it was clear yesterday that he remains disappointed, even as the new funding model for tourism promotions he crafted begins to take effect.

“We have not figured out yet (how) to market the state,” Kasich said. “Marketing the state is a big deal, and we’ve got to figure out exactly region by region and as a state as a whole what it is that’s going to get people’s attention and have them come here.

“Because once they’re on the plane coming here, they don’t leave. We’ve got to get them on the plane.”

Kasich made the comments to reporters after a speech to business leaders and company employees at Milacron, a large manufacturer of plastics in Batavia, east of Cincinnati.

Beginning with the fiscal year that started July 1, the state’s tourism-marketing program will be funded from the growth in sales-tax revenue from tourism-related businesses. It’s a five-year pilot program with yearly funding capped at $10 million, or double the $5 million the state used to spend on tourism promotions out of the general-revenue fund. The tourism office has been renamed TourismOhio.

Goodman said, “I’m not saying we haven’t done (tourism promotions) well before, but under my leadership I want to maximize what I think is a wonderful opportunity for the state of Ohio.”

He wouldn’t specify what the state needs to do differently in terms of tourism promotions, but he said he is taking his time finding the right replacement for Eylon and examining ways the state could work better with regional promotional groups.

Eylon told The Dispatch last year that tourism is a $36-billion-per-year industry in Ohio, and the state reaped $14 in revenue for every $1 it spent on its major tourism ad campaign in 2011.

(c)2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Tags: marketing, ohio