Jes Stringfield

Butler County does not usually top the list of Ohio’s tourist destinations, but county officials surveyed tourists in and around Butler County throughout fall 2008 to determine what improvements the county could make to gain more tourism revenue.

Butler County officials met Feb. 23, to discuss the ideas proposed by the survey.

The $56,000 survey conducted by Zeitgeist Consulting focused on what possible new developments within Butler County would gain the interest of tourists. Survey participants included county residents among a broad range of ages from 25 to 70, as well as a broad range in economic income ranging from $50,000 to $125,000 per year.

“The survey was done in order to examine the county,” said Mark Hecquet, executive director of the Butler County Visitors Bureau. “An outside consultant (Zeitgeist Consulting) was able toprovide a new perspective and ideas. They were also able to show new purpose and shed light on our existing economic opportunities.”

The top suggestion is a developed riverfront in Hamilton, desired by 88 percent of those surveyed. The second most preferred tourism site, favored by 63 percent of survey participants, is an outdoor concert venue in West Chester’s Voice of America Park.

Bill Geist, president of Zeitgeist Consulting, said he hopes the study helped Butler County find solutions they would not have found otherwise.

“The government officials and developers of Butler County are now aware of their investment opportunities,” Geist said.

The survey evaluated Butler County’s weaknesses, such as the lack of activities available during the winter and early spring, no riverfront development and little evening entertainment.

The survey also revealed an extreme lack of destination signage throughout the county, giving tourists difficulty in finding existing attractions, which leads to less money spent at these sites. According to the survey, “Welcome to Butler County” signage is also lacking, except for on the few water towers throughout the county. The survey results suggested themed signs would provide a unified identity for all cities in the county.

The information provided by the survey has already instigated meetings among county officials to discuss the inadequate signage.

“There was a meeting last Monday among (Butler County) city leaders to address the signage throughout the county,” Hecquet said. “It has been closely examined and will be accomplished soon.”

Despite the many sightseeing weaknesses, the survey addressed many strong possibilities to add to the county’s attractiveness for tourists. Some of the results included the idea of an outdoor theater and music venue, an indoor-outdoor sports facility, a Voice of America museum and the possibility of a high-speed rail connecting Butler County with Cincinnati and Dayton.

Miami University sophomore Loree Trammell said she thought a quality addition to Butler County should be a unique venue to attract tourists.

“I think Butler County needs something like a zoo or a skating rink, something different,” Trammell said. “Maybe a better shopping mall.”

Senior Drew Bennie said he wanted to see a sports-oriented venue added to the county’s attractions.

“I’d like to see a professional sports team in Butler County,” Bennie said.