The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau celebrated record-breaking tourism results and recognized key contributors to the local hospitality industry at its Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26 at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Highlights from the meeting included changes to the CVB’s Board of Directors and bylaws, a call for increased community partnership and engagement and the presentation of the CVB’s Spirit of Cincinnati USA Awards.

The Cincinnati region reported its most successful year for travel and tourism in 2018, with more than 26.6 million annual visitors spending $5.3 billion overall. Growth in the local hospitality industry signals increased economic impact throughout the Cincinnati region, and is a result of strong community collaborations.

“The CVB cannot exist in a vacuum and expect to make the impact we want to make,” said Julie Calvert, President and CEO of the Cincinnati USA CVB. “When we are aggressive and proactive as part of a larger regional collaboration with our government, chambers, economic development organizations and  business partners, then we maximize our power.”

Guided by the theme “The Power of We,” the CVB emphasized the depth, breadth and impact of the local tourism industry in front of more than 400 attendees, including hospitality employees, business professionals, government officials and community leaders. A host of representatives from the tourism industry, ranging from Who Dey and Mr. Red Legs to a hotel concierge and a tour guide, filled the stage at the conclusion of the meeting to represent the region’s 80,000 hospitality employees.


Strategic Approach for CVB’s Future

In her first Annual Meeting at the helm of the CVB, Calvert outlined a strategic approach based on team growth, partner engagement, visitor experience, destination development and governance. Calvert underscored the importance of creating economic impact through tourism by establishing meaningful and authentic connects between visitors and residents and making Cincinnati’s convention infrastructure contemporary and competitive.

“Five principles – influence, authority, inclusion, transparency and collaboration – have set the foundation for our entire organization and keep us focused on our mission and vision every day. When that happens, the creative and strategic programs we develop are on target and have a tremendous impact.”

Calvert’s sentiments were echoed by outgoing CVB Board Chairman, Jim McGraw, and incoming Chairman Mario San Marco. Under their leadership, the CVB Board of Directors and membership approved changes to the Code of Regulations to increase community engagement through an elevated board presence.

“As Board Chair, I want to make sure that every community leader and decision-maker understands how critical it is that this industry has everything it needs to thrive,” said San Marco, Senior Vice President of Economic Development at Western & Southern Financial Group. “We’re taking the same approach to build a stronger CVB board aligned on the same goal – to drive our regional economy forward in a smart, proactive way.”


Celebrating Strong Results

The Cincinnati community’s tourism and hospitality industry comprises 10 percent of the regional economy and brings in more than $5 billion annually in visitor spending. The CVB’s work in 2018, as described at the Annual Meeting, continued to contribute to the industry’s significant impact.
  • The Dan Lincoln Institute for Hospitality Leadership graduated its first students from Cincinnati Public Schools.
  • Conventions booked in 2018 by the CVB sales team will generate more than $161 million in economic impact for the Cincinnati region.
  • The CVB hosted the first-ever Cincinnati Moon Festival in partnership with the local Chinese community to connect visitors with the region’s dynamic cultures.
  • The CVB hosted an award-winning Cincinnati Staycation Showcase with the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network and meetNKY as part of National Travel and Tourism Week.

2018 Spirit of Cincinnati USA Award Winners

The CVB’s Spirit of Cincinnati USA Awards recognize the influencers and advocates of the local hospitality region who have gone above and beyond to drive the Cincinnati region forward. This year’s awards program reflected the Annual Meeting’s “Power of We” theme with a diverse group of winners represented.
Champion Award for Convention and Meeting Sales
  • Laura Werts – Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
  • Shayok Dutta – Sharonville City Council
  • Jim Saporito – Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center
  • Chez Chesak – Freelance Travel Writer
  • Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney – Cincinnati Herald
  • Charisse Gibson – Fox19
  • Cincinnati Performing Arts Community Members
    • KellyAnn Nelson – Young Professionals Choral Collective of Cincinnati
    • Stephanie Nash – Cincinnati Vocal Arts Ensemble
    • Todd Duesing – Cincinnati Arts Association
    • Robert McGrath – Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
    • Christopher Eanes – Cincinnati Boychoir
    • Earl Rivers – UC College-Conservatory of Music
    • Scott Feldman – Music Hall
    • Tom Merrill – Xavier University
    • Robyn Reeves Lana – Cincinnati Youth Choir
Horace Sudduth Progressive Business Award
  • Candice Matthews Brackeen – Hillman Accelerator
Wendell P. Dabney Award for Diversity
  • Greater Cincinnati Chinese Cultural Exchange Association
Partnership Award
  • Captain Mike Neville – Cincinnati Police Department
Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Award
  • Micah Paldino – Fallon Thatcher
  • Ryan Santos – Please
Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Service
  • Carol Russell – Holiday Inn Express and Suites, Cincinnati Red Bank
  • Ron Melson – Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza
  • Umit Ayyildiz – Jeff Ruby’s Steakhouse
  • Cedric McDonald – Executive Car and Limousine

About the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau
The  Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau is a sales, marketing and service organization whose primary responsibility is to positively impact Hamilton County's and the City of Cincinnati's economy through convention, trade show and visitor expenditures. The travel and tourism industry traditionally has been a $5.3 billion industry in Cincinnati USA, employing more than 80,000 people in a variety of fields and bringing 26.6 million visitors to the region annually. Visit for more.