A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Chamber’s Eggs N’ Issues discussion embraces tourism in region; brings in $319m in tax revenue

By David Kubota
NKyTribune reporter

The Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Eggs N’ Issues panel discussion on Tuesday embraced the recent successes of tourism in the region.

With visitor spending up to $3.1 billion, generating $319 million in tax revenue in 2017, the tourism industry has made a huge impact.

The panelists included Eric Summe, president and CEO of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau; Linda Antus, president and CEO of the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network; and Mark Looy, co-founder, vice president of outreach and chief communications for Answers in Genesis. They discussed the continuing success of tourism in the region.

Pictured left to right: Panelists Eric Summe, Linda Antus and Mark Looy at Tuesday’s Eggs ‘N Issues event at Receptions Banquet and Conference Center. (Photo by David Kubota)

Summe began by thanking and recognizing the people in the room who work for the hospitality industry and acknowledged their work as a strong contribution to the tourism industry. He then went on to tackle the large statistics given to the panel.

“The average visitor spends about $275 a night, and it’s easy to rationalize that — hotel, dinner, entertainment, attractions,” Summe said. “Well, we did 1.7 million room nights in our region last year, so that really tells the tale.”

A total of 21 million visitors came to the Northern Kentucky region in 2017, spending $5 billion on food, beverages, and lodging. The industry also generates 77,000 jobs for the area.

“In 2003 the very smart people at the Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati bureaus got together and said our region isn’t like any other in the country,” Antus said. “We are 15 counties in three states.”

The two bureaus then joined forces in an effort to share the benefits of tourism within the area, specifically money coming from tourists outside the region.

“All of us working together, the collaborative approach is what is lifting our results, since 2012 our growth has been above the national average,” Antus said.

Answers in Genesis is the religious organization responsible for the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum located in Northern Kentucky. The panel agreed that these attractions have had a profound effect on tourism in the region.

“We did our research almost 25 years ago, and we determined that almost two-thirds of Americans could drive here in one day, that absolutely caught our attention,” Looy said.

Looy says that this, along with the low cost of living in the area, contributed to the organization’s choice to build its attractions in the region.

Now into its second year, the Ark Encounter attracted some one million visitors in its first year and is expecting to exceed that this year.

“It’s kind of unusual we aren’t appreciated in our own backyard, yet 98 percent of our guests do not live in Indiana, Ohio, or Kentucky,” Looy said. “We have a 10- to 15-year plan, and that Ark that you see out there is just phase one of many phases to come.”

Answers in Genesis plans to continue to promote their attractions and will build upon the Ark Encounter and the Creation Museum in the coming years.

Summe and Antus discussed the growing plan to promote bourbon and beer in the Northern Kentucky region in a new initiative. Summe hopes to expand the Bourbon Trail to the Northern Kentucky region.

“In the research we found out that most of the people who are attending the Bourbon Trail in central Kentucky are coming here through the Brent Spence Bridge,” Summe said, “so it’s the perfect opportunity for an intercept, and to tie the two in together.”

The panel also addressed the need for more hotels in the region. Sixty percent of hotels in the region reside in Boone County, while both Kenton and Campbell Counties have far fewer. New projects, such as the Hotel Covington, create new experiences for tourists that make the region stand out.

“The key to continuing to develop is to make them differentiate, you look at the 21C,” Antus said, “It is an opportunity for people to try different experiences.”

The Northern Kentucky region makes up 20 percent of Kentucky’s tourism, second only to the Louisville and Jefferson County region.

The panel also addressed a recent, potentially drastic, change for the tourism industry. On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down a 1992 federal law that prohibited most states from authorizing sports betting. The panel agreed that they would pursue sports betting, and it could be a new potential source for Northern Kentucky tourism.

“We have a very broad view of anything that will generate visitor traffic, and we are a very welcoming destination with a very high service culture,” Summe said. “We are always looking for more experiences to offer, so the answer is yes, definitely.”

The Eggs ‘N Issues discussion takes place monthly at Receptions Banquet and Conference Center, located in Erlanger. For more information on Eggs “N Issues, click here.

David Kubota is a Scripps Howard Foundation intern at the NKyTribune this summer. He is a student at the University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media.

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