Lake Erie Tourism Economic Impact in Ohio

Lake Erie is a natural resource that is a vital component of Ohio’s economy. The quality of life contributions that result from its recreational use cannot be measured in dollars; however, there are many statistics we can cite that point to the economic value of its waters.

Based on records from the Ohio Division of Wildlife, there were 724 Ohio-based licensed charter boat captains on Lake Erie in 2017. Private charter, head boat and personal watercraft fishing trips were estimated at 682,634 in 2017.

Trips booked by these charter captains, along with the harvest from private boats fishing Lake Erie’s Ohio waters, resulted in a harvest of 6.0 million pounds of walleye, yellow perch, steelhead trout, and other species. The commercial fishing harvest added another 4.4 million pounds. A total of 844,700 fishing licenses were sold in Ohio in 2017 and 52% of those anglers fished in Lake Erie’s waters.

The American Sport Fishing Association estimates that Lake Erie’s sport fishing expenditures top $1 billion annually. This extremely productive fishery provides significant economic impact to a wide variety of businesses, including not only the charter and commercial fishing captains, but also to bait and tackle shops, grocery stores, lodging facilities, fish cleaning businesses, restaurants, and many other business segments.

economiesThe same impact factors hold true for pleasure boating, as those who use Lake Erie for this activity spend money on a large variety of goods and services. Statistics from the Ohio Division of Watercraft show that Ohio had 542,602 registered watercrafts in 2017 a growth of almost 82,000 in three years. This puts Ohio among the top 8 states in the country for boat registrations. The economic impact of recreational boating in Ohio is $3.5 billion.

Ohio Sea Grant data states that there are 270 licensed marinas on Ohio’s Lake Erie waters. Health Department records from the eight Ohio counties along the lake show that there are approximately 38,000 registered boat docks.

Data from a 2017 study of the economic impact of tourism in Ohio conducted by Oxford Economics, shows that for the eight Lake Erie-bordering counties in Ohio, total tourism-related spending was $15.1 billion and this spending helped support 127,852 jobs and generated $1.9 billion in total taxes. This is nearly a third of the annual tourism related spending, jobs and taxes for the entire state. This data is firm evidence of the economic value of Lake Erie not only to those who work and reside along its shores, but to all Ohioans.

It is also one of the many reasons why we must do all we can to protect the lake. And our tourism industry is certainly not the only beneficiary of a healthy lake. Consider also: public water supplies, lakefront homeowners, realtors, other types of lakefront businesses, lake- bordering towns like Port Clinton, Marblehead, Sandusky, the islands, etc., wildlife, wildlife watchers, outdoor enthusiasts, our visitors and all places where visitors spend money.

Furthermore, the data cited here only pertains to tourism impact in Ohio, we know our friends in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and Ontario can all share the same type of information about how Lake Erie benefits their areas.

Commercial Shipping

Maritime commerce on the Great Lakes Seaway System annually sustains:

  • 227,000 U.S. and Canadian jobs
  • $34 billion in business revenues
  • $3.6 billion in transportation cost savings compared to the next least expensive mode of transportation
  • $14 Billion in wages and salaries

If the Great Lakes region were a country, it would rank as the fourth largest economy in the world, behind only the U.S., China, and Japan.

  • The Seaway continues to modernize its infrastructure, ensuring a safe and reliable waterway system for years to come. Through the year 2020, nearly $1 billion will be invested in Seaway rehabilitation and modernization.
  • The industry has recently invested over $2 billion in new and modernized Seaway-sized ships.
  • Great Lakes Seaway System port authorities continue to modernize and add new infrastructure and services.

The seaway is safe, reliable and efficient.

  • 99% System Reliability:  A typical navigation season is 275 days (late March to late December).
  • Emergency Response:  In coordination with the U.S. and Canadian Coast Guards, the Seaway Corporations are ready and able to quickly, safely, and effectively respond to any emergency situation.

The Great Lakes Seaway fleet is nearly 7 times more fuel efficient than trucks and 1.14 times more fuel efficient than rail. It would take 3 million railcars or 7.1 million trucks to carry the total cargo transported by the Great Lakes Seaway fleet.

The Seaway’s current binational ballast water management regulations and inspection regime are among the most stringent in the world and have proven effective in preventing invasive species from entering the Great Lakes.

Moving cargo by water instead of by rail or truck results in less traffic congestion, reduced highway infrastructure costs, better quality of life, improved workplace safety, less noise, and pollution.