After Northern Kentucky’s tourism sector was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, the region has nearly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels on several key metrics.
According to officials from meetNKY, the region’s official tourism bureau, business travel to Northern Kentucky has returned to approximately 90% of pre-pandemic levels. The region’s overall tourism resurgence was anchored by growth in hotel revenues, hotel occupancy rates and air travel passengers.
On Tuesday, elected officials, community members and representatives from other regional organizations gathered at Turfway Park in Florence where meetNKY officials shared updates on the overall state of tourism in Northern Kentucky.
“In 2022, leisure travel and people making the decision to come visit Northern Kentucky and the Cincinnati region has never been stronger,” meetNKY CEO Julie Kirkpatrick said. “We’re excited about the possibilities now that things are finally returning to normal in a post pandemic world.”
Growth happened in a variety of important tourism sectors. Specifically, regional hotel revenues grew by 19.4% from 2021 to 2022. Regional hotel occupancy rates sat firmly at 67.5%, an increase of 4.6% from 2021. At CVG, there was a 21% growth in passengers from last year — a near return to 2019 levels, according to Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick said the recovery of hotels is an especially good sign for the overall health of tourism in the region.
Bourbon tourism, a primary focus of meetNKY, had a positive effect on overall regional tourism. In 2022, Northern Kentucky bourbon distilleries experienced an 11% growth in visits. For Kentucky as a whole, 2 million people visited statewide distilleries last year, according to the Kentucky Distillers Association.
“Bourbon is on fire and that momentum is going to keep going, so it was a great year,”
Looking forward into 2023, Kirkpatrick said meetNKY will conduct studies on potentially enhancing the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, focus on attracting new
conventions and events to the Center, and create a marketing plan to promote the region’s outdoor attributes.