Ohio State Reformatory and flag

The Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield was the site of the classic movie Shawshank Redemption, released in 1994.

MANSFIELD – While much of Ohio’s tourism economy was devastated in 2020 due to COVID-19, the negative impact on visitor spending in Richland County was less than expected.

Efforts by Destination Mansfield-Richland County and its local partners were successful, with local tourism businesses faring better compared to national and state averages.

A just-released study from TourismOhio shows visitor spending in Richland County was down only 15.3 percent, a stark contrast to a statewide dip in 2020 traveler spending of 24.5 percent, 24.9 percent in Northeast Ohio and 42 percent nationally.

“Our area is not dependent on conventions or large corporate meetings in the standard sense,” according to Lee Tasseff, president of Destination Mansfield-Richland County. “The strength of our tourism economy lies in our abundance of outdoor recreation and in events and conventions that don’t require large headquarter hotels.”

Lee Tasseff mug shot.jpeg

Lee Tasseff is president of Destination Mansfield-Richland County.

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Many larger, convention-oriented destinations were especially hard hit as large meetings and corporate travel virtually stopped. While leisure travel also declined significantly, travelers sought out road trip destinations with plenty of outdoor offerings and crowd-free smaller towns.

They opted to visit communities that were clearly working to create safe yet memorable experiences. By focusing on protecting visitors, making it easy to social distance and offering plenty of outdoor dining, entertainment and recreation options, Richland County exceeded what travelers were seeking in light of the pandemic.

Visitor spending in 2020 was a solid $320.8 million, supporting over 4,000 jobs and generating more than $9 Million in local taxes. As a result, Richland County households saved an average $400 in state and local taxes, thanks to its strong tourism industry.

“We are so proud of our residents, our community, attractions and businesses,” Tasseff said. “The people of our region demonstrated their signature collaborative spirit and creative problem solving, welcoming visitors with safe and comfortable getaways.

"The spirit that brings us together to support one another also offered visitors a much-needed escape from pandemic lockdowns in a place where they could safely make memories with their families and closest friends.”

Tasseff noted that not only is tourism key to the local economy as the 4th largest employer in the county, but it enhances quality of life for residents, making Richland County communities attractive places to live, work, and conduct business.

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