CINCINNATI (March 10, 2023) – Visit Cincy hosted its Annual Meeting at the Duke Energy Convention Center, with more than 450 business professionals, civic leaders and members of the regional hospitality industry in attendance.
Tourism officials shared results from 2022 and strategic plans for 2023, which included an update on the new Convention District and Headquarter Hotel, introduced new board leadership and honored hospitality and industry leaders for their service.
Over the last year, Visit Cincy booked business that will bring more than $218 million dollars in economic impact to the region, an increase of 47 percent over 2021. Additionally, Hamilton County hotel room revenue grew by 34 percent, resulting in $311 million dollars last year. Employment within the hospitality industry is also returning to pre-COVID levels at nearly 80,000 people employed in the industry, or 1 in 8 jobs region-wide.
In his remarks as Visit Cincy Board Chairman, Jeff Berding, Co-CEO of FC Cincinnati, called for the region to leverage the momentum of the renovation of the Duke Energy Convention Center and a new Headquarter Hotel as well as the federal funding for the new companion bridge for the Brent Spence Bridge.
Berding also renewed his case for a new modern arena with a development champion to shepherd the project. He also introduced an idea to connect The Banks to the Central Business District with a new green space, which would also host major events like Taste of Cincinnati and Oktoberfest Zinzinnati.
Sports and Arts Lead the Way as Top Tourism Drivers
The Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl appearance had a ripple effect of positive momentum and exposure for the region resulting in more than $4 billion in media coverage and a spike in VisitCincy.com website traffic.
“Similarly, the UC Bearcats football team, FC Cincinnati’s playoff run, the inaugural Kroger LPGA Queen City Championship, the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament and the Flying Pig Marathon all captured the imagination of the community and gained significant national exposure for our destination,” added Julie Calvert, President & CEO of Visit Cincy.
Last July, the Cincinnati Music Festival returned for the first time since 2019 and drew more than 90,000 concert-goers. During last year’s Music Festival, Commission President Alicia Reece led the induction ceremony for downtown’s new Cincinnati Black Music Walk of Fame, a permanent memorial that debuts this summer on the riverfront to celebrate Cincinnati’s incredible history of black music makers.
Last fall also saw the return of BLINK, the nation’s largest immersive art and light show, and FotoFocus, the nation’s largest lens-based art biennial, which brought a combined 2.25 million visitors to the region.
Large Conventions Return
The Cincy region successfully hosted large conventions like the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Federal Energy Management Program, the Child Neurology Society, Educational Testing Service (the largest annual convention, back for the first time since the pandemic started), and one of the nation’s leading Black sororities, Zeta Phi Beta, and its Great Lakes Regional Leadership Conference.
Strategies for 2023
By the end of 2023, Visit Cincy expects to hit pre-pandemic targets of nearly $5 billion in visitor spending, with tax revenue exceeding $1 billion, and a hospitality industry that makes up 10 percent of the regional economy.
Visit Cincy will achieve these strategic goals with the following initiatives:
- Aggressively market the current convention center assets while making progress on three key facilities: the Headquarters Hotel, the Duke Energy Convention Center reinvention and the Sharonville Convention Center’s $21 million expansion that will open in July.
“Until these three facility assets are completed, we’ll target meetings and conventions that fit,” said Calvert. “It’s important to remember the booking cycle for conventions is typically is three to five years so, we’re already benefitting from these new assets.”
- Reinvent the Sports Corporation to recruit and attract new events to the region.
“With our world-class assets, it’s time to think bigger about marquee large-scale events like March Madness and the NFL Draft,” said Calvert.
- Continue activating a culture where Diversity, Equity & Inclusion are woven into every part of the organization, inside and out.
“We’re going to grow, train, employ and retain a diverse supplier and talent base within the entire industry,” said Calvert. “We’re going to expand our Dan Lincoln Institute for Hospitality Leadership to continue developing the next generations of travel and tourism professionals.”
- Build and leverage growing partnerships and regional collaborations.
New Board of Directors and Leadership Elected
At the Visit Cincy annual meeting, the following were elected as new directors:
- Barbara Turner, Former President & CEO, Ohio National Financial Services
- Steve Mullinger, Southern Ohio/Northern KY Regional President, Huntington National Bank
- Melissa Saladonis, Assistant VP, Government Relations, Cincinnati Children’s
- Jackie Reau, CEO of Game Day Communications, filling the Designated Director position representing the Sports Corporation.
The 2023 Visit Cincy Board Leadership was elected:
- Jeff Berding, Co-CEO, FC Cincinnati as Board Chairman
- Agnes Godwin Hall, Director Talent Acquisition & Employer Brand Marketing, Macy's as Board Vice Chair
- Paul Silva, President, Eagle Realty Group as Board Secretary/Treasurer
Spirit of Cincinnati Awards
The Visit Cincy Spirit of Cincinnati Awards recognizes the influencers and advocates of the local hospitality region who have gone above and beyond to drive the Cincinnati region forward.
Special Distinction for Hospitality Service
- Kathy Davis, Sales Manager for Jeff Ruby Culinary Entertainment. She recently retired from a career that began answering phones at The Precinct 32 years ago. Kathy is a true champion of the local hospitality industry and friend of Visit Cincy. Beyond her business success, she volunteered at many organizations, such as Women at Work, supporting and providing resources to survivors of domestic violence.
Champion Award for Meeting Sales, which will now be known as the Jean-Robert de Cavel Champion Awards, recognizes those who have worked directly with the Visit Cincy team to bring important meetings to the Cincy region. The honorees are:
- Monica Gaddis of WorldatWork
- Monica was chosen for this award because of her work in advocating for Cincinnati as the site for the WorldatWork Total Rewards Conference. With the company headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona, the decision-makers had never been to Cincy. A longtime resident, Monica ultimately convinced them to give the city a chance, and Cincinnati won the bid, bringing over 2,900 room nights and 1,200 attendees to Cincy in 2024.
- Kristin Gallo with the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati
- After hosting its 2022 National Gymnastics Championships & Invitational in Toledo, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati approached Visit Cincy about bringing the event to the Cincy region. Kristin was instrumental in bringing this event to the Duke Energy Convention Center in June.
Erich Kunzel Queen City Advocate Award recognizes those whose actions have attracted positive media coverage of the Cincy region. The honorees are:
- Kristen Schlotman, Executive Director of Film Cincinnati.
- Film Cincinnati was instrumental in landing Cincinnati a spot in Moviemaker Magazine’s list of “Best Places to Live and Work as a MovieMaker in 2023.” As more and more high profile movie projects locate here, so do jobs, visitors and coverage.
- Cincinnati Bengals
- The 2022 Bengals’ historic Super Bowl run united this region in an unprecedented way, vaulting Cincinnati into the global spotlight and inspiring existing fans and new ones alike.
Horace Sudduth Progressive Business Award honors people and organizations that demonstrate sustained commitment to diversity through leadership in areas like supplier diversity and workforce development. The honoree is:
- Kick Lee, Founder of the Cincinnati Music Accelerator
- Kick’s exemplary leadership has quickly made CMA an invaluable asset to our region, supporting Cincy’s thriving arts scene by empowering and providing resources to local artists.
Partnership Award recognizes an individual or organization that partnered with the CVB to make significant contributions to the local meetings and tourism industry. The honoree is:
- David Freeman, President of Accent on Cincinnati and the Rose Awards
- David has a long history of supporting Visit Cincy, from coordinating essential meeting planner tours to assisting with our Annual Meetings to taking on transportation logistics for the 2012 World Choir Games. Perhaps most importantly, his dedication to the Rose Awards and honoring frontline hospitality workers is remarkable.
Pinnacle Award for Outstanding Service honors an individual on the front line of the hospitality industry who sets an example through excellent customer service and pride in the Cincy community. The honoree is:
- Seth Hudson with Alaska Air has gone above and beyond, exemplifying what “hospitality” really means in the Cincy region. On multiple occasions, Seth took the time to either arrange for delayed baggage to get to a guest or personally delivered the bags himself after his shift.
Wendell P. Dabney Award for Diversity recognizes an individual or organization that has diversified the hospitality industry.
- Khisha Asubuhi from Originalitees
- Khisha is founder of Originalitees, which helps locals represent and promote our region through apparel with messaging that resonates. Khisha also donated a portion of proceeds to My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and the Beloved Community Church’s Cincinnati Bail Fund, a shining example of how to show support in times of civil and racial injustice.