The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) has announced the creation of the Cincinnati USA Institute for Hospitality Leadership. The Institute will work with schools, colleges and hospitality businesses to create a curriculum to prepare more skilled workers and leaders for the continued expansion of the travel and hospitality sector.

“Ohio ranks seventh in the nation in the number of jobs supported by the travel economy, and these jobs grew 12.5 percent in the last five years,” said Melinda Huntley, executive director of the Ohio Travel Association. “These jobs create professional career opportunities, build skills that are transferrable, and support the pursuit of education. Yet finding skilled workers is often identified by our industry as an impediment to growth.”

In Cincinnati, the tourism industry brings nearly $4.5 billion in direct visitor spending and supports 74,000 local jobs. In fact, 1 in 14 jobs in Hamilton County are tourism related.

“The travel and hospitality industry is growing faster than just about any non-tech sector of the U.S. economy,” said Dan Lincoln, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau. “In Cincinnati alone, we have seen explosive growth in the number of hotel rooms and successful new restaurant openings in the last five years. Best of all, more are coming and we need to continue to feed skilled workers and managers into this job creation machine.”

The Cincinnati USA Institute for Hospitality Leadership will soon announce a task force that will first work with businesses in the industry to better project the employment and management talent needs in the region. It will then work with local colleges to create a curriculum that will fill those jobs. The task force also will help local middle schools and high schools create a curriculum that will be a precursor to the college program.

The task force will be led by Jason Dunn, vice president of Multicultural and Community Development for the CVB.  Assisting Dunn in forming the task force will be Sean Rugless, president of the Katalyst Group and Constance Cooper, a consultant with the Southwest Tech Prep Regional Center, which is managed through the Ohio Department of Education.

“Our industry’s continued expansion dictates that we need to exponentially grow our skilled talent pool,” said Matthew Coffey, president of the Cincinnati Hotel Association. “If we are going to continue to create more jobs, we are going to need more local people to fill them.”

Coffey, who also is the general manager of the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza Hotel, also pointed out hotels will need to be an active participant in this process.

“We look forward to working with the CVB and the Institute to help graduates excel and grow in our industry,” he added.

The Cincinnati USA Institute for Hospitality Leadership was announced at the 2016 Multicultural Tourism Forum. The Forum was part of the CVB’s multicultural initiative, Vibe Cincinnati, and featured local, state and national leaders in multicultural travel. Vibe Cincinnati is the CVB’s platform for the region to amplify the voice of its unique culture and showcase its robust collection of multicultural experiences.

“We stand with Cincinnati, to assist in the growth and diversity of this region’s hospitality community,” said Ana Aponte-Curtis, chair of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners and Multicultural Tourism Forum panelist. “This is the kind of thing that will open more doors to more people at all levels of the hospitality industry in Cincinnati.”

Aponte-Curtis also stated that making this curriculum available at the middle school and high school level is important.

“This will give students, especially minority and socioeconomic disadvantaged children, a chance to see the tourism and hospitality industry as a place for a long and meaningful career,” said Dunn. “Too often, teenagers see a hotel and think of a low hourly wage. We want to show them that it doesn’t have to be that way, at all.”
The CVB will commit $25,000 in seed money to kick start the Institute. Further initial funding will be donated by the Santangelo Group, which will donate $7 per ticket sold to the opening night of the Cincinnati Music Festival presented by P&G for three straight years. Future funding partners will be announced later.

"We think this is really important for our region and hospitality industry, which is why we are making such a big commitment of giving a portion of Throwback Thursday ticket sales to this initiative " said Fran Santangelo DiBattista, director of PR, Marketing and Media Relations at the Santangelo Group. “We believe it is part of our responsibility to help prepare our industry for the continued growth we expect for years to come.”

The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau is an aggressive 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 $4.4 billion industry in Cincinnati USA, employing 74,000 people in a variety of fields and bringing 24.1 million visitors to the region annually. Visit for more.

Vibe Cincinnati is the Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau’s platform for the region to amplify the voice of our region's culture and to showcase our robust collection of multicultural experiences. Through art, entertainment, and immersive experiences, Vibe Cincinnati aims to create a welcoming and inclusive environment to diverse audiences, engaging our city's core and our region's visitors.