Member Login

Tourism in Northern Kentucky Sees Boost from Bourbon, Ark & Creation Museum

Hotel occupancy in Northern Kentucky outpaced the national average last year, hitting a record high, the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau (meet NKY) announced this week.

The organization cited a boom in group tour business, growth at the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), and bourbon tourism for the growth.

Hotel occupancy grew by 7.5 percentage points in 2018. The region's 72.78 occupancy rate was ahead of the national average of 66.2 percent, marking the second consecutive year that Northern Kentucky's rate exceeded 70 percent.

Meet NKY held its annual meeting on Thursday.

"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."

The growth in group tours was led by faith-based organizations, meet NKY said.

"The Creation Museum in Boone County and the Ark Encounter in nearby Grant County drive significant numbers to our destination," Bray said.

Meet NKY President & CEO 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.”

Bourbon tourism has seen a boost with the launch of the B-Line, Northern Kentucky's bourbon tour.

"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 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, sales contracts at the convention center 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."

-Staff report