The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) held its 2018 Annual Meeting today at the Duke Energy Convention Center. Attracting nearly 500 members of the regional hospitality industry, business professionals, and civic and government leaders, the event celebrated the legacy of recently retired President and CEO Dan Lincoln and highlighted strong convention bookings and travel and tourism economic impact results from the past year.

Themed “Celebrate What’s Great, Create What’s Next,” the 2018 Annual Meeting featured a host of tributes to Lincoln, who retired in December after 11 years at the helm. Those tributes included video testaments from several dignitaries in the region and culminated in a surprise announcement that the CVB has renamed its Institute for Hospitality Leadership (IHL) in honor of Lincoln. The newly christened Dan Lincoln Institute for Hospitality Leadership was created in 2016 to connect students and hospitality businesses to prepare more skilled workers and leaders for the continued expansion of the travel and tourism sector.

In addition, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and Hamilton County Commission Vice President Denise Driehaus presented proclamations declaring March 6 “Dan Lincoln Day” and chronicling his long track record of service to the region’s convention, travel and tourism industry. Current and former CVB board members also presented Lincoln with a custom-made illustration of Cincinnati by local artist James Billiter.

“Dan devoted his career to building up Cincinnati and laying the foundation for the resurgence we’ve experienced over the past decade,” said Jim McGraw, board chair of the CVB. “Today was our community’s chance to say ‘thank you’ – to honor Dan for his incredible contributions and add to his already sterling legacy. The Institute was one of Dan’s signature accomplishments and naming it in his honor is a fitting tribute for a true visionary and an outstanding leader.”

Solid Results and An Optimistic Forecast

During the meeting, CVB Interim President and CEO Mike Laatsch reported results from last year as well as findings from the region’s recent study on the economic impact of tourism and travel. The CVB exceeded its sales goal for 2017, with contracts representing more than 192,000 future hotel room nights and $57 million in related visitor spending. Since 2005, the Bureau has booked a cumulative total of more than 2.5 million room nights, bringing estimated visitor spending to the region of more than $750 million. The CVB’s future sales pipeline continued to fill in 2017 as well, climbing to nearly one million room night sales leads.

In 2017, the CVB hosted dozens of meetings and conventions that came from all over the world, including the National Square Dance Convention, National Baptist Convention and Connect Meetings, where 400 planners representing hundreds of future conventions gathered here.

“Even professional meeting planners chose to hold their own event here in Cincinnati,” said Laatsch. “That’s a telling indicator of the kind of national reputation we’ve established and the growing interest meeting planners have in our destination. That kind of exposure sets us up for continued success as a host city for years to come.”

Beyond strong convention results, the economic impact of the Cincinnati region’s travel and tourism industry continues to grow at a record pace. Laatsch shared economic impact data showing more than 26 million annual visitors to the Cincinnati region, spending more than $5 billion dollars a year while they’re here. The impact report also showed more than 77,000 jobs in the region supported by travel and tourism. According to the Ohio Department of Jobs & Family Services, jobs are growing faster in that sector than in any other in the region.

A Vision for Destination Marketing Leadership

McGraw outlined the CVB’s priorities for 2018 and beyond, focusing on the importance of staying competitive and addressing key challenges around the region’s convention assets and infrastructure needs.

“Because of our convention and tourism talent, we fight very effectively above our weight class,” said McGraw. “Just compare our budget, our hotel tax revenues and our convention infrastructure to competitive destinations in the Midwest and around the country. We are regularly out-gunned by cities like Louisville, Columbus, Cleveland and Indianapolis in those areas, but we’re still competing. If we had infrastructure that could measure up, our results could improve exponentially.”

The CVB has a coordinated effort with the City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, the Redevelopment Authority, Duke Energy Convention Center, Sharonville Convention Center, the hotels and 3CDC to address the region’s significant infrastructure needs and opportunities. Added McGraw: “This is a big priority and we are attacking it in a balanced, measured way. We know how critical it is to solve these challenges because we see every day the impact of a thriving convention portfolio.”

The Best of the Hospitality Industry

The CVB presented its annual Spirit of Cincinnati USA Awards, which celebrate the people and organizations that have gone above and beyond to move the Cincinnati region forward. Award winners comprised a diverse group whose contributions have left an indelible mark on the community, including:

  • Champion Award for Convention and Meeting Sales: Bishop Marvin Frank Thomas, Sr. of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
  • Horace Sudduth Progressive Business Award: Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber
  • Wendell P. Dabney Award for Diversity: Artistic entrepreneur and cultural activist Toilynn O’Neal
  • Partnership Award: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport
  • Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Service: Hugo Pabst, bartender from D. Burnham’s
  • Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Awards:
    • The creators of BLINK, including the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, ArtWorks, AGAR, Brave Berlin and the Haile Foundation
    • Fiona and the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden

In addition, the CVB honored Procter & Gamble with a Special Recognition Spirit Award for the company’s continuous partnership in sponsoring and coordinating large events that put Cincinnati in the spotlight as a top-choice destination to live, work and visit.

For more information about the CVB’s 2017 results click here to view the CVB's 2017 Annual Report.

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 billion industry in Cincinnati USA, employing 77,000 people in a variety of fields and bringing 26.1 million visitors to the region annually. Visit for more.