Northern Kentucky’s Destination Management and Marketing Organization reports on a record breaking 2017

Covington, Ky. – Led by new demand at the Ark Encounter, fresh bourbon experiences, a vibrant culinary scene and new hotels, Northern Kentucky's travel and tourism industry had a record-breaking 2017.  At their annual meeting on Thursday, meetNKY | Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau announced the region generated $450 million in visitor spending in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. The theme of meetNKY's annual meeting, "Headlines & Heroes," reflects the many tourism-related announcements and openings during 2017, including Northern Kentucky being designated as an Official Gateway to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.

"Our destination enjoyed a banner year in 2017 with significant increases in visitors and economic impact," said meetNKY Board Chairman and General Manager of the Marriott Kingsgate Hotel, Jack Brandt. "These impressive results underscore the efforts and support we receive from our hospitality partners and our community."

Among the other major tourism headlines of 2017:

Economic impact of tourism has never been higher

Tourism generated a record $5 billion of economic impact in the Cincinnati region, according to a joint report released by meetNKY, the Cincinnati USA CVB and the Cincinnati Regional Tourism Network.

"We had a lot of good news and a lot of headlines in 2017," said Eric Summe, president & CEO of meetNKY. "And the best news of all is how visitors to our area - whether they are here for business, pleasure, both or just passing through - have a tremendous impact on our local economy that may not always be obvious.”

"Just consider," Summe continued, "that every night in Northern Kentucky during 2017, there were an average of 4,794 visitors in the destination, shopping, dining and enjoying all the amazing attributes of our region.  While doing so, they’re leaving behind a big economic impact. For every room night that was occupied in Northern Kentucky in 2017, an additional $129.94 was spent at regional attractions, dining, shopping and transportation. That's big money and that's big news!"

Six new hotels opened in Northern Kentucky in the past two years

Hotel Covington, Hampton Inn & Suites Newport, Comfort Suites Florence, Home2 Suites Florence, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Wilder and Aloft Newport are all new hotel additions to Northern Kentucky and three additional hotels are currently under construction. Prior to 2016, the most recent hotel opening in Northern Kentucky was in 2010.

The lift continues as CVG soars

New Southwest Airlines service began at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in 2017 and the airline has already added new destinations. As fares continue to become more affordable and new attractions generate new opportunities, the region continues to become more inviting to visitors. When new WOW air’s international service begins in May 2018, the world is the limit for Northern Kentucky.

Investment in tourism continues building on regional success

In 2017, meetNKY began a new three-year agreement with its partner organization, the Cincinnati Regional Tourism Network, on a marketing effort focused on big storytelling and engagement for the entire Cincinnati region.

More than 77,000 people in the Cincinnati region work in the tourism industry while a variety of experiences, attractions and partners continue to make Northern Kentucky an exceptional place to visit.

meetNKY, county fiscal courts launch path toward new convention center

meetNKY worked with the Boone, Campbell and Kenton County fiscal courts to unanimously add a 1% increase to the region's hotel tax.  The tax creates the region’s first development fund focused on tourism product development and lays the foundation for future plans to expand the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.  

Additional highlights of the record-breaking year at meetNKY include:

  • A boost in total direct visitor spending from $388 million in 2016 to $450 million last year, propelling regional hotel occupancy to 70.74 percent, an increase of 2.58 percent year over year.
  • Room night demand continued at a breakneck pace, growing by 8.6 percent, more than double the U.S. average of 3.8 percent.
  • Buoyed by three new hotel openings, room night supply grew by nearly 5.8 percent. Three more hotels are scheduled to open in 2018.
  • Return on Investment (ROI) for every dollar of marketing continues to grow for meetNKY at $23.52, up from $21.99 in 2016.
  • Visitor Satisfaction remained strong at 94 percent.
  • Room night sales improved 28 percent from 2016, which will generate $47
  • million in future economic impact.
  • meetNKY’s marketing efforts generated a total economic impact of $128 million in 2017.

Also, during Thursday's meeting, the 2017 Star of Tourism Award was given to New Riff Distilling. The distillery is just months away from bottling its first batch of locally-made bourbon and continues to draw visitors to Newport for tours, tastings and events.

New Riff Distilling is also part of The B-Line, Northern Kentucky's inviting collection of craft bourbon distilleries, bars and restaurants, that was launched earlier this year and promises a truly unique experience for visitors seeking bourbon tourism.

Looking to the future, Brandt stressed the need and necessity for product development in Northern Kentucky focused primarily on a community-wide effort to expand the Northern Kentucky Convention Center.