By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COVINGTON - Demand for Northern Kentucky hotel rooms grew last year, according to the region's tourism agency. But in a lingering sign of the sluggish economy, nearly half of the region's rooms went unoccupied.
Northern Kentucky hotels finished 2003 with a 54.2 percent occupancy rate, a 3.9 percent increase over the previous year, the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau reported during its annual meeting Thursday.
The increase was better than growth rates posted by Kentucky (0.8 percent), Ohio (1.9 percent), Cincinnati (2.3 percent) and the nation (1.6 percent), said bureau president and CEO Tom Caradonio.
Economic impact of visitor spending in Northern Kentucky rose 2 percent to $224 million, Caradonio said.
"It is clear that the Boone, Kenton and Campbell county hotels are aggressive about getting back their economic health," he said. "They have continued to drive room-night sales over the last two years, still climbing out from the devastation of 2001's 13 percent demand drop."
The bureau reported visitor spending as follows:
Lodging, $109.2 million
Restaurants, $52.3 million
Shopping, $27.7 million
Entertainment, $16.5 million
Transportation, $12.6 million
Corporate travelers were the largest tourism market segment at 42 percent, followed by leisure (35 percent), meetings and conventions (21 percent) and government (2 percent).
Caradonio said for 2004 the bureau has booked 38 conventions and meetings for the Northern Kentucky Convention Center in Covington, which will generate 32,000 hotel-room-nights. The bureau's goal is 40,000 rooms, he said.
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