Scioto County tourism on the rise

John Stegeman, PDT Sports Editor

October 3, 2012


PDT Staff Writer

According to Kim Bauer, Director of the Portsmouth-Scioto County Visitors Bureau, tourism is up in the area and will likely remain up, due to a number of events scheduled this fall.

Some of the scheduled events included a visit from American Cruise Line ship, Queen of the Mississippi. The ship docked Sept. 30 in Portsmouth. She said while in Portsmouth, those on the ship were given a mural tour. She said they also had time to explore the city. The ship left Portsmouth Monday and will be returning on Oct. 9 and will have more time to explore the city on Oct. 10.

“About a week ago a replica of the ship Nina went through the area going up the Ohio River. The last time this ship was on the Ohio River was 1997, they docked in Portsmouth at that time,” Bauer said. “We are not on their list of places to stop this year but, I’ve already spoken with the company (that owns the ship) trying to make arrangements for them to stop here again. It may not be next year or it might be 2014. We have to wait until they get finished with this cruise to talk with them about their future schedules.”

She said the ship is scheduled to leave Pittsburgh Oct. 3.

“Depending on how fast or how slow they travel people could get a glimpse of the ship if they are down by the river at the right time. I have friends who are visitor bureau directors in Gallipolis (Ohio) and Marietta (Ohio), so I can get with them and have them let me know when they pass by their towns. This would give us someway of telling when it will pass through the area.” Bauer said.

Other events scheduled this fall include the 2013 Miss Ohio USA and Miss Ohio Teen USA pageants will be returning to the Vern Riffe Center For the Arts in Portsmouth Nov. 9-10 for the 12th consecutive year.

“This is good news for the area that the pageants are coming back,”Bauer said.

All of the contestants will attend an orientation on Oct. 14 in Portsmouth that will serve as an introduction to the pageant.

“The orientation is an opportunity for them (contestants and families) to submit their paperwork and make sure everything is in order before the pageant,” Bauer said. “As a part of the orientation, the contestants will have their photos taken for the program. At that time pageant director Melissa Pitchford and I will address the contestants.”

She said the orientation and the pageant brings some economic development to the area.

Bauer said the orientation will also provide an indication of how many contestants there will be during the November pageants.

“The crew will come in on Wednesday and stay until Sunday, a lot of the parents come in on Wednesday or Thursday to get a feel for the area,” Bauer said.

According to Bauer, most visitors during their stay will eat and shop locally. She said it’s difficult to find a hotel room in the area the weekend of the pageants.

“I’ve had some friends who have had things going on that weekend in Portsmouth and the closest room they could get was in Piketon or Ashland,” Bauer said.

She said a lot of the people who participate or watch the pageant will come in from across the state. Bauer said at the Scioto County Welcome Center there are informational racks. The racks are meant to provide visitors and community members with information about upcoming events and points of interest.

“We like to keep the community and our visitors informed of the activities going on. This takes a community effort to keep those racks filled with all of the latest information,” Bauer said.

She said people can drop off flyers for upcoming events or attractions at the welcome center and they will be displayed until the event is over.

According to Bauer, from January to the middle of May there were 4,500 people that visited the Scioto County Welcome Center, that she’s counted.

“We average about 10,000 people a year that come in the welcome center after they’ve seen the murals and those are the ones that come in. There are numerous others who do not come in,” Bauer said.

She said a number of people have been taking advantage of the Portsmouth Murals Inc., phone number, anyone can call to receive a guided tour of murals as they pass by. That number is 740-621-8031.

Every year there is a study done though the Ohio Division of Travel and Tourism on tourism throughout the state.

“From that state report we are able to receive a breakdown of tourism in each county. We were up 3.3 percent this year when compared to last year. Every year for the last four years, we have seen an increase in tourism,” Bauer said. “People do not think of Scioto County as being a vacation destination but, we have people coming in to the (Shawnee) Lodge to spend Thanksgiving weekend. We have people every weekend coming here.”

Bauer said there are a number of people that come to the area in the fall to check out the color in Shawnee State Forest on a day trip.

She said the Vern Riffe Center For the Arts on the campus of Shawnee State University draws a number of people from out of town to the area.

“You can spend $225 to see a show in New York, you can spend $160 dollars in Columbus or you can spend $50 Portsmouth to see the same show,” Bauer said. “We get a lot of people come into town for that. People do not realize, we go out of town to see concerts, people do not realize, people from Columbus come here to see shows or concerts.”

Bauer said she is in the process of gathering information for the next edition of the Scioto County Visitors Guide.

She said the guide contains information about and directions to a number of destinations throughout the county.

“The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will take 4,000 visitors guides to put in their visitors centers throughout the state. I go through about 3,000 at the Ohio State Fair,” Bauer said. “In a year we will have about 5,000 visitor guides pass out at trade shows throughout the country. We will mail out about 2,000 visitors guides to people that’s considering or is soon going to visit the area.”

She said about 6,000 visitors guides will be given out through the welcome center.

“We have about 20,000 visitors guides printed every year,” Bauer said.

A new feature in this years visitors guide will be a pull out map that shows the murals and the downtown area along with other information.

She said with places like Shawnee State University and the teams they play against, there are people coming in from out of town and in most cases spending money. She said the same could be said of area high schools.

Bauer said there are countless occasions in which people come into the area and take advantage of hotels or restaurants or concerts.

Bauer said she along with the Portsmouth Area Chamber of Commerce maintains a community calendar of events throughout the year and beyond.

“It’s never to early to send us information for the community calendar. Right now we have items on there up until January or February of next year. As soon as we get the information we put it on the calendar and hand it out,” Bauer said.

For more information about the Scioto County Visitors Bureau visit them inside the Scioto County Welcome Center, 342 Second Street, Portsmouth or call 740-353-1116 or visit http://ohiorivertourism.org.

Wayne Allen may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 208, or wallen@heartlandpublications.com.