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Local Tourism Leaders Hopeful As Hotel Occupancy Nears Pre-Pandemic Levels

hotel occupancy graph
Graphic: Flourish
Hotel occupancy in Hamilton County is rebounding compared to low numbers during the pandemic.

Local tourism officials say last week's hotel occupancy rate was the highest since before the pandemic. Hamilton County had 61% occupancy last week, almost double the rate this time last year.

"We're beating Columbus, we're beating Louisville, Lexington, in occupancy, and a lot of other cities throughout the Midwest," said Andy Conklin, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Conklin says he's optimistic about occupancy returning to pre-pandemic levels soon.

CVB president and CEO Julie Calvert says the industry lost millions of dollars over the past year and a half.

"There really isn't a full-scale recovery of our economy until hospitality and tourism recovers," Calvert said. "It's 10% of the regional economy, so it's really, really important."

Cincinnati council allocated 1.7 million dollars in the most recent federal stimulus to the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Hotel tax revenue through the end of March was about a million dollars less than a typical year.

Demolition of the former Millennium Hotel in downtown Cincinnati is on time and on budget, according to president and CEO of The Port Laura Brunner.

She says planning what will be built on the site next to the Duke Energy Convention Center is still delayed by the pandemic.

"The first step in any new hotel development is going to be a study to validate the use of the new hotel," Brunner said. "So we really have to wait until we get occupancy up to a high enough rate that we can really start that whole process."

The demolition is scheduled to be complete in mid-June 2022.

Millennium Hotel
Credit Becca Costello / WVXU
The former Millennium Hotel is being demolished one floor at a time.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.