In 2005, leaders from the Convention and Visitor Bureaus of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky had the vision to create a unique, innovative and regional approach to expand the economic impact of the region’s travel and tourism sales and marketing efforts. Following on the heels of the 10 year anniversary celebration of the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network (RTN), the leisure destination marketing organization’s tourism programs saw record levels of growth in 2016.
“Over the last 11 years, we have made research-driven decisions to advance strategic growth initiatives in destination awareness, visitation and engagement, and extend the leisure tourism marketing footprint and season,” said Linda Antus, president and CEO of the Regional Tourism Network. “The renaissance in downtown Cincinnati, new product in lodging, culinary, arts, entertainment and attractions on both sides of the river, together with a growing leisure marketing voice throughout the year, have grown visitation and hospitality results driving economic impact to the region.”
The RTN’s 2016 leisure tourism initiatives delivered some of the largest historical gains in RTN history in earned revenue, web visitation, leveraged media and ROI, as well as strong consumer signals of intent to travel and visitor profile characteristics. Overall 2016 achievements include a 4.8% growth in peak season hospitality revenue, an $11.5 million increase over 2015. Additionally, RTN marketing initiatives drove return on investment to $22.68 in hotel room night revenue and $86.86 in total tourism revenue for every dollar invested by the RTN in regional leisure tourism marketing, up 10.5% over 2015. Through personalized content and optimized user experience, CincinnatiUSA.com, the region’s largest travel website, had its highest single-year visitation in site history (3.4 million visits) with 70% of those web visitors from outside the Cincinnati region. Website visitors from Nashille, TN, a new media market for the RTN, increased by 57%.
2016 marked the launch of Cincinnati USA’s first regional leisure tourism marketing campaign co-created with ArtsWave, Greater Cincinnati’s lead planner, promoter, and fundraiser of the arts, highlighting regional arts & cultural entertainment. Targeting a new audience, with a new message, in a new season, the new campaign drove incremental 2016 growth in hotel occupancy, demand and revenue, as well as new web visitation in the shoulder season of September through December.
“By design, the RTN is effective, operating with 80% of its revenue in front of the customer, and continuing to improve year-over-year results, exceeding goals and outperforming our competitive set.” said Mike Conway, Chairman of Winegardner & Hammons Hotel Group and founding chair of the Regional Tourism Network Board. “They are strategic and collaborative in nature, using research to successfully expand the travel season and audience with this new and innovative arts and cultural campaign with ArtsWave.”
This unique new campaign is the region’s first leisure tourism marketing campaign promoting arts and cultural entertainment. Success highlights include increase in hotel occupancy, demand and revenue September through December yielding $14 million in additional revenue over 2015. Increased engagement by arts and cultural travelers from 100-500 miles outside of the region garnered huge growth for both the RTN’s CincinnatiUSA.com and ArtsWave’s CincyArtsGuide.com.
Research from Americans for the Arts shows that more than two-thirds of American adult travelers say they included a cultural, arts, heritage, historic activity or event while on a trip of 50 miles or more. Arts and cultural entertainment visitors are proven to spend more on entertainment while traveling, more likely to be culturally diverse, stay in the area longer, visit in larger parties and have higher intent to return making them an ideal target, according to RTN research. In 2016, arts and cultural visitors to the Cincinnati USA region stayed 3 nights and spent $878 per party size of 3.2 people.
“The success of this campaign directly reflects the quality and diversity of arts and cultural experiences that are a defining part of our region,” said Alecia Kintner, president and CEO of ArtsWave. “In just the first year of this multi-year collaboration, the RTN has proven to be a valuable partner with a strong track record in growing leisure travel, as demonstrated by the results.”
“Tourism is the front door to economic development and regional collaboration with our funding partners at the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky CVBs, as well as public and private developers, operators and civic advocates is at an unprecedented peak during the continued regional renaissance,” said Antus. “The RTN is an integral partner with many key partner organizations in growing the vitality of our region, together.”
In 2017, the travel industry forecasts continued growth nationally powered by leisure travel. Cincinnati USA will continue to see development of diverse hotel and attraction product in our region, attracting visitors and making Cincinnati USA a vibrant place to live, work and play. The RTN will build upon the success of the arts and cultural tourism collaboration with ArtsWave and continue to grow the peak season through proven strategies and strong partnerships to increase destination awareness, visitation and positioning.