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Cleveland is rocking with surge in visitors, positive attention

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CLEVELAND — Cleveland is rocking, with a surge of visitors in the past year amid a lot of positive national attention.

The regional visitors bureau Destination Cleveland says nearly 17 million visitors came to the Cleveland area in 2014, up more than 4 percent from the year earlier.

The Plain Dealer of Cleveland reports (http://bit.ly/1T5pdHi ) that officials credit a variety of factors, including the Republican Party's choice of the northeast Ohio city to host its 2016 national convention and the return to Cleveland of NBA star LeBron James. There's also been a new branding campaign for the city with TV advertising.

Officials say Clevelanders are feeling better about their hometown, which is important because resident recommendations are influential in other people's travel decisions.

They expect the momentum to continue, with more national publicity ahead after the widely watched first major Republican presidential debates held Thursday in Cleveland.

The Destination Cleveland report says Cuyahoga County welcomed 16.9 million visitors in 2014, after being at 14 million in 2010. A visitor is considered anyone who comes into the county from more than 50 miles away for leisure or conventions.

Convention room nights and traffic to the Cleveland's website both jumped, with busy social media attention, too.

The report found hotel occupancy dropped slightly, a decline linked to increased supply of hotel rooms.

David Gilbert, president and CEO of Destination Cleveland, said the varied reasons all play a role.

"There are so many different factors," Gilbert said. "And they all really build on each other."

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