How LeBron’s move west could tip parts of Cleveland’s economy south


The real economic toll on Cleveland could be a loss of money from tourists traveling to see one of the best players in the league.

In 2015, Cleveland visitors spent $5.4 billion, with $1.3 billion in food and beverage sales alone, and recreation and entertainment brought in $1 billion, according to Destination Cleveland, the city’s tourism bureau. That total amount jumped roughly 10 percent from 2013, which a spokeswoman said is not necessarily tied to James’s return to the city’s team.

“The $100 million difference between 2013 and 2015 in recreation & entertainment spending would likely include some relationships to the Cavs as LeBron was back in Cleveland in 2015,” said Emily Lauer, a spokeswoman for Destination Cleveland, the city’s tourism and convention bureau. She said that the $100 million increase cannot be entirely attributed to James’s return, though.

Going forward, Cleveland will have to work harder to attract travelers to the city to fill its increasing number of hotel rooms.

Hotel data specialist STR count of hotel rooms has increased nearly 15 percent, to 24,141, since the end of 2013 through May 2018 and hotel. Those were in 206 hotels, up from 188 before James returned to the Cavaliers from Miami in 2014, and after the city hosted the Republican National Convention two years ago. Occupancy in those rooms fell 2.4 percent last year but is up 3.2 percent through May, according to STR.

More passengers have been flying to and from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, too. The airport suffered from a decline in passenger traffic in 2014 after United Airlines stopped using the airport as a hub following its 2010 merger with Continental Airlines, but traffic has rebounded to more than 9.1 million passengers last year, the most since 2011, after U.S. and international airlines added service. Parking, concession revenue and aircraft landing fees generate revenue for airports.

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