Photo by Ron Baker

2021 Annual Report of the NKY Tourism Industry

2021 continued to show recovery for the Northern Kentucky Tourism Industry. Northern Kentucky hotels continued to show a steady increase in demand and finished 2021 with a 64.5% occupancy, a 39.9% increase over 2020 results. This is still not back to the record results of 73.1% in 2019 but is moving in the right direction. Our hotel community continues to provide world class service and experiences for all the Northern Kentucky visitors. We had a good year and will continue to work to get beyond the 2019 records and recovery all that we have lost. 

We began 2022 welcoming back larger conventions at the Northern Kentucky Convention Center including the return of Kona Ice's Annual Event and a last-minute addition from a move from Long Beach, the Passenger Vessel Association. We want to thank Tony Lamb from Kona Ice and Alan Bernstein from BB Riverboats for always advocating to meet in NKY. This year we will welcome back the the Sweet Adelines Region 4 Convention, Christian Community Health Fellowship, Kentucky Coalition of Nurse Practitioners, and many other groups as they return to our RiverCenter convention package. And this year we will welcome two new groups from the World of Coal Ash and one of the largest events we have ever held, the Federation of Analytical Chemistry & Spectroscopy Societies. We know medical and science meetings have a great home in our Covington center and we are focused on bringing many more of them to this region. Our meeting planner satisfaction continues to stay in the high 90% and our planners always intend to return to our region.

Our market share against our comparable set cities including Dayton, Lexington, Madison, WI and Overland Park, KS remained strong, and we did finish 2021 at a robust 134.9%. Traffic to our websites, and have recovered and our marketing efforts have enabled us to beat the 2019 session mark and we are well on our way to putting millions of eyes on Northern Kentucky's attributes. We started an earned media focus in 2021 that generated 53 stories about Northern Kentucky and put more than 310 million impressions of NKY attributes on display. And finally, we have more intentional efforts in understanding our visitors and where they are coming from with new partnerships with Arrivalist and Zartico, showing us that 1.3 million visitors came to Northern Kentucky in 2021 and stayed for at least one night. Overwhelmingly they are visiting from Lexington, Louisville, Indianapolis, Columbus, Dayton, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, and Nashville.

We are gaining a better understanding of how our visitors are using the destination while they are here and as they visit our signature attractions like the Ark Encounter, Creation Museum, Newport Aquarium and the Levee, BB Riverboats or venture into downtown Cincinnati for a Reds or Bengals game. This new insight validates how our mash up of bourbon experiences, culinary gems and the arts increases a visitors’ dwell time in our region. Our visitors travel an average of 288 miles to stay in Northern Kentucky and our focus with our partners at CVG Airport is to broaden that range from further away destinations that equate to longer stays. 

We also worked closely with our partners across the river at the Cincinnati CVB to build a strong regional tourism brand representing all the best of our region: where North and South come together, where arts and sports come together and many more collisions of culture that we have in this region. Our Cincy Region alliance is allowing us to better sell this destination for tour operators, convention meeting planners and helping the individual visitor navigate better and choose the Cincy Region over many opportunities. Our mission will always be to make sure that Northern Kentucky’s Southern spirit is constantly expressed in the broader story. Our alliances are creating dividends like our Come Find Bourbon partnership with Bardstown and Frankfort that has generated a more than 146% increase in B-Line site visitation or our partnership with Lexington and Louisville to bring more international visitors to the Commonwealth.

Finally, our organization continues to recover from the pandemic and the financial impropriety that occurred before the disaster. We are operating in a leaner, more nimble fashion ensuring that we are 100% transparent and accountable to the industry. The entire meetNKY staff works hard every day to live our mission to drive quality of life and economic growth for Northern Kentucky through tourism marketing and destination management. Later this year, meetNKY will release the first destination strategic plan that will helps us drive forward on our brand vision to make NKY a top tier chose destination to work, live and play. 

All our kind regards in the spirit of hospitality,

the staff of meetNKY