COVINGTON, Ky. — Hotel occupancy in Northern Kentucky outpaced the national average in 2018, hitting a record high driven by the booming group tour business, the growth of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) and the popularity of bourbon tourism.
Demand for Northern Kentucky’s hotels grew by 7.5 percent last year to 72.78 percent, beating the national average of 66.2 percent. This marks the second consecutive year that Northern Kentucky hotel occupancy exceeded 70 percent, meetNKY | Northern Kentucky CVB announced Thursday during its annual meeting.
“Demand for Northern Kentucky hotels showcases the strength of our destination’s offerings as part of a vibrant region,” said meetNKY Board Chair Tim Bray, director of communications for the Kentucky Speedway. “Higher occupancy means higher demand. Accordingly, the room revenues our hotel partners are receiving continues to be strong.”
Several diverse factors contributed to the record-setting performance.
The region’s group tour business, led by the faith-based market, continues to boost hotel occupancy.
“The Creation Museum in Boone County and the Ark Encounter in nearby Grant County drive significant numbers to our destination,” Bray said.
Demand at the region’s hotels exceeds national averages. President & CEO of meetNKY, Eric Summe, made mention of the increased demand in his remarks at Thursday’s luncheon. He attributed much of the demand to the hard work and dedication of the hospitality partners in the region.
In Florence alone, two new hotels have opened and five more are planned, providing even more opportunities for visitors to experience the dining, shopping, recreation and attractions in the city, including the soon-to-be refurbished Turfway Park racetrack.
“Throughout the three counties, we see our hospitality industry growing and succeeding,” Summe said. “Our 12,000 plus hospitality and tourism employees are all ambassadors who spend every day making Northern Kentucky a place people want to visit – and it shows.”
As bourbon tourism continues to boom, the award-winning B-Line – Northern Kentucky’s bourbon tour – has generated an invigorated interest in the northern edge of Bourbon Country and inspired the opening and planning of new bars, restaurants and distilleries.
“Northern Kentucky is bourbon crazy, and The B-Line is helping us identify more closely with the Commonwealth and define our brand-piece of the Cincinnati region,” Bray said.
Hotel development across Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties is at an all-time high with five new properties in the pipeline.
“This tells us that our region is hot and a great bet for investment,” Bray said. “It seems that every month, we receive an inquiry from a hotel developer exploring new construction in Northern Kentucky.”
For its leadership and support of Northern Kentucky tourism, the City of Florence, Ky. was awarded meetNKY’s STAR of Tourism award during the meeting.
“Florence continues to be an integral piece of the puzzle,” said Summe. “The city’s ongoing support and unprecedented hotel growth contributes to the success of the region.”
Looking ahead, meetNKY is working in conjunction with the 20-year-old Northern Kentucky Convention Center on a feasibility report for expanding the center. meetNKY is also working with the City of Covington, which has launched a study of developing the adjacent Internal Revenue Service center that is slated to close.
“We’ll be undertaking market, funding and design research, and are excited about the prospects ahead,” Bray said. “We will begin to see what an invigorated and expanded convention center may look like for our region and its potential for further increases in economic impact.”
Meanwhile, the future of the Convention Center is bright. Sales contracts are at 116 percent of meetNKY’s projected pace for room nights through 2025.
“It’s an exciting time for our destination and an exciting time to be a visitor to Northern Kentucky,” Bray said, “and we are committed to keeping the momentum going in 2019 and beyond.”