Covington, Ky. [March 23, 2022] – It’s no secret that the tourism industry was hit hard by Covid, but with a focus on resilience, visibility and collaboration, Northern Kentucky is primed and ready for recovery. Already in 2022, the region is showing steady increases and experiencing positive trends across all travel segments.

At Tuesday’s annual meeting and report to the community, meetNKY | Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau celebrated the accomplishments of the regional tourism industry over the past year and highlighted how the organization is prepared to thrive as travel & tourism recovers beyond 2019 records.

This year’s theme, “Tourism Takes Center Stage” shined a spotlight on the growing national & international attention Northern Kentucky and the Cincy Region is receiving as meeting planners, leisure and business travelers; and groups explore their next destination. Positioned as the ‘edge of bourbon country’ with a unified regional tourism brand representing the best of where North meets South, the region is doubling down on the value our region places on strong collisions of culture and an embedded Southern spirit – unique to making NKY a great destination of choice.

"MeetNKY has come a long way in 3.5 years” said Board Chair, Josh Quinn. “The journey hasn’t been easy and wasn’t accomplished by one person. The transformation of meetNKY has truly been a collaborative effort to ensure tourism is always on the stage and generating results.”

Among recent major tourism headlines: 

PromoWest Pavilion at Ovation brings national acts to the NKY riverfront
Located on the riverfront in Newport, PromoWest Pavilion at OVATION is the third indoor/outdoor concert venue in America and hosting an average of 150 events each year, featuring music from some of the biggest names in rock, folk, blues, jazz, metal, classical, country, classic rock, alternative rock, and everything in between. In 2022, construction began for Ovation on the River, a 25-acre mixed-use development will have a little bit of everything, including 1,000 residential units, 500,000 square feet of Class A office space, 524 hotel rooms, the Ovation Membership Club and 250,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space.

CVG continues forward momentum
The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) continued its forward momentum in 2021 despite turbulence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Passenger traffic increased with the airport ending the year at 70% of pre-pandemic passenger levels. More nonstop routes returned, including the announcement of 11 new route options and the recently announced return of international flights in 2022. Cargo volumes broke records, and Amazon Air opened its largest U.S. air hub at CVG in fall 2021, which represents an investment of $1.5 billion.

The edge of bourbon country lies in Northern Kentucky
meetNKY, alongside regional partners, is focused on putting more Kentucky in Northern Kentucky. Elevating the key bourbon-themed assets across the state, the B-Line has placed NKY on the map as the state’s northernmost bourbon experience consisting of 19 bourbon bars, restaurants and distilleries. From a bourbon perspective, Northern Kentucky has done an exceptional job of building infrastructure to accommodate bourbon tourism. Bourbon plays a key role in Northern Kentucky’s hospitality industry. Northern Kentucky is one of the fastest growing talent areas in the state of Kentucky. While the state lost 40,000 jobs in 2021, Northern Kentucky added jobs. 

Additional highlights over the last year include:

  • Northern Kentucky achieved a strong 64.5% hotel occupancy rate, which was an increase of 39.9%. While still down from the record of 73.1% in 2019, we are well above the US national average of 57.6%.
  • Leisure travelers continued to seek out our unique experiences in Northern Kentucky – our Ark Encounter brought in millions of visitors, regional demand from the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals made an impact and our growing bourbon tourism industry gave visitors a reason to stay longer.
  • NKY achieved a 95.2% satisfaction rate with meeting planners as a reflection of their overall experience with our destination through hotels, restaurants, attractions and other partners in our industry.
  • NKY had 1.3 million overnight visitors last year, visiting predominantly from Lexington, Louisville, Indianapolis, Columbus, Dayton, Huntington, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Nashville.
  • Using bourbon, culinary and arts along with all the unique attractions and our first stop for Southern Hospitality brand, NKY had 53 stories in national media in 2021; equating to an additional 310 million eyeballs on our destination.

Also, during Tuesday’s meeting, President & CEO for meetNKY, Julie Kirkpatrick shared her appreciation for those across the tourism industry following a long haul for so many over the last two years. During a time that was filled with so much loss and continuous hard work by the entire industry, it was decided that everyone in this industry deserves this year’s Star of Tourism Award for the hard work put in every day to keep this critical industry going.

Looking to the future, Kirkpatrick stressed the need for continued collaboration and successful strategy implementation to ensure Northern Kentucky is a destination of choice for people to play, live and work.