Hot on Cleveland:
Travel pubs are loving our city
As written by Susan Glaser on Cleveland.com.
Take a bow, Cleveland. The nation's top travel publications have taken notice.
And they seem to be smitten.
In the past several weeks, the city has landed atop four major must-see destination guides for this year. Most recently, this Sunday's New York Times included Cleveland as one of its "52 Places to Go in 2015," lauding the Gordon Square Arts District, the Museum of Contemporary Art and other attractions.
Who's hot on Cleveland
Travel & Leisure, Best Places to Travel in 2015
Fodor's Travel, Fodor's Go List 2015
Los Angeles Times, 15 Destinations for Travelers to Set Their Sights on in 2015
New York Times, 52 Places to Go in 2015
BuzzFeed, 16 Spectacular Places to Travel in 2015
Metropolitan at the 9, the sleek new hotel in the former Ameritrust Tower, makes Conde Nast Traveler's list of Where to Stay in 2015
ABC Travel Guides for Kids names Cleveland one of its Top 7 U.S. Family Travel Destinations for 2015
The New York Times' recommendation follows Cleveland's inclusion on lists put together by editors and writers at the Los Angeles Times, Travel & Leisure magazine and Fodor's Travel.
All of this attention begs the question:
What's going on here? Are we really that hot?
Or are all these travel writers feeding off each other and falling, lockstep, for Cleveland's compelling, narrative-of-moment ("Rust Belt city revives," or something like that)?
It's probably a little bit of both.
As travel editor at The Plain Dealer, I've devised my own, similar lists over the years. And let me assure you: They are not scientific.
But they do seem to pick up on some of the buzz surrounding a community on the move.
Cleveland's inclusion on one of these lists might be considered a fluke. But four? That's hard to ignore.
There is significant overlap, but only two destinations appear on all four lists – Cleveland and Singapore, which this year is celebrating its 50th anniversary.
(I do worry, however, about the extent to which we Clevelanders appear to so crave outside affirmation. I mean, do the citizens of Paris – this year, on two of these lists -- get super excited every time their city is named a must-see destinations? Je pense que non.)
Kristan Schiller, the editor at Fodor's Travel, helped shed some light on how Cleveland landed on her publication's list.
It certainly didn't hurt that Schiller, who grew up in Shaker Heights, loves Cleveland and returns often to visit friends and family (last November, she wrote "5 Reasons to Visit Cleveland Now" for Fodor's). But Schiller, who lives in New York, still had to convince 14 of her colleagues that her hometown should rise above dozens of others under consideration.
"There was a lot of back and forth," she said. "It was a month-and-a-half long process about why this city should be on, and this one shouldn't."
Her lobbying on Cleveland's behalf eventually won out.
"It's got so much going on right now," said Schiller, citing the opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art in late 2012, the recently expanded Cleveland Museum of Art, the successful Gay Games in 2014, and the landing of the Republican National Convention in 2016.
"It's a happening time for the city, and it's really, really exciting," she said.
Others impressed by the city's authentic allure include Catharine Hamm, travel editor at the Los Angeles Times, and Monica Drake, travel editor at the New York Times, both of whom attended a conference for travel editors – for members of the Society of American Travel Writers -- in Cleveland last May.
Drake said including Cleveland on the New York Times’ list was an easy call.
“The city is having its moment, I think, because so many people have gone and come away impressed, thinking ‘Who knew?’"
David Gilbert, the president and CEO of Destination Cleveland, said the psychological benefits of such attention – within the city and far beyond – can't be overestimated.
"All of these places are singing the praises of our community – that makes a difference," he said. "Even if only Clevelanders know about these rankings – that alone may have a significant effect on changing the mindset of those who believe the grass is always greener someplace else."
Gilbert said it would be hard to quantify how valuable the attention is, but he's hopeful that visitor numbers for 2015 (and beyond) will increase in some part due to the publicity.
We can look west to Indianapolis for some answers. Last year, the Indiana capital made the New York Times' list of top destinations for 2014 – a distinction that numerous meeting planners cited when visiting the city last year, said Chris Gahl, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Indy.
"The world of tourism is very competitive. We're all vying for attention. Having a media giant like the New York Times stamp us with 'destination approved' – that draws attention to your city and that draws travel. A third-party endorsement of your city has more weight than paid advertisement."
And that's "just" the New York Times. Cleveland has the Times -- times three or four.
"If you add up the audiences of the L.A. Times, the New York Times, Travel & Leisure, BuzzFeed, Fodor's – collectively, when you look at these audiences, it's tens of millions of people. The number of people reading about Cleveland from legitimate, third-party, unbiased sources – that will make a difference," said Gilbert.
How big of a difference? Impossible to say right now.
But I look forward to finding out.