Friday, September 12, 2008

Tourism Investments Pay Off: Part II

More great results were reported today regarding our tourism industry, affirming once again the effectiveness of investments we have made over the last couple years to attract more visitors and conventions to our region.

As the Enquirer reports ,, July 2008 hotel occupancy rose to about 66%, up a full 11% from the year before. And January through July occupancy for 2008 was up 7% over the same time last year. This growth defies national occupancy numbers, which, due largely to the bad economy, are actually down 2.5% in the same time period.

As the article makes clear, this success is the direct result of the decision we made to upgrade our convention center to be competitive with peer cities, and the accompanying decision to aggressively market the new center, as well as all the other assets of our region, to both conventioneers, and regular tourists and families from near and far. A couple years ago, we just weren't on the map as a destination, but that's clearly changing.

Strategically, it's hard to overstate the importance of this type of growth for a region. The only way to drive sustained economic growth is to consistently bring in new money and new spending into our area. To get outsiders to visit, and spend, on our products, in our stores and restaurants, in our venues. And that is exactly what these efforts are achieving.

Congratulations to all those working so hard to make this success happen.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering and Respecting 9/11

Seven years ago, we were all stunned by the events of this day. The tragedy, the heroism, the national unity and purpose that followed, must never be forgotten.

For months following the 2001 tragedy, as we looked back at our pre-9/11 world, it's safe to say we were collectively embarassed by what we saw in light of our new perspective. As the terrorist attack was being conceived and planned in our own country, our headlines that summer were consumed with shark attacks, the Chandra Levy scandal, and other relatively trivial stories. How silly we looked. How unprepared, and unfocused, and distracted, from the true challenges of our world.

Sadly, as we paused to remember 9/11 today, it brought that same feeling about the prior days we have seen. Up until today, the talk of this week has been about "lipstick-gate." Feigned offense and personal charges back and forth. Political ads that stretch the truth and dwell on the trivial. And a media falling over itself to cover and analyze every wrinkle and aspect of the trivial.

Even as we face all the challenges of this world and economy, and we have a presidential race that should be the perfect vehicle to debate and address these issues, we seem to be rapidly reverting back to the summer 2001 focus on the small.

Today, due to 9/11, the national campaigns agreed to take a "timeout" from the week's nonsense to focus on the deeper issues in our country. Thankfully, it became a day to be serious, to be thoughtful, to think about a broader and unified national purpose.

Is it too much to ask that this timeout last at least through the election, and ideally beyond?

Taking the timeout for just one day misses the entire point.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Eliminating Our Onerous Travel Tax

Five years ago, I saved myself about $1,000 by driving to Dayton, flying to Cincinnati, and then flying again to my ultimate destination. I wrote the President of Delta Airlines a letter at the time, and stated the obvious--this just didn't make sense. And I know this sentiment is one almost all citizens in this area share.

More than just not making sense, this situation is becoming a greater and greater disadvantage to our region, its citizens and businesses. While we often deliberate, debate and vote as a community on fees and taxes that may cost a citizens several or tens of dollars a year, at our airport we have a travel "tax" that costs hundreds of dollars per flight. For businesses, or citizens and families, that travel often, the "tax" will total thousands. This puts a squeeze on our citizens' budgets, not to mention our businesses' competiveness. It also poses a clear hurdle to attracting as many visitors and tourists as we would like.

Sadly, since my flight five years ago, the situation hasn't gotten any better.

Hamilton County has an appointment to the CVG Airport Board. And I met early last year with the leadership of that board. My primary message was clear--we should do all we can to invite lower-cost competitors into the marketplace. We have to lower prices. And my message was the same to our appointee on the board, James Miceli.

I was thrilled to see today that the board is working on this goal. They are trying to get a low cost carrier to come to CVG, and figure out ways to keep them here once they get here (in the past, Delta would knock them out of the market by reducing fares):

I talked to Mr. Miceli, and told him how much I supported and encouraged what they are doing, to keep me updated, and to let us know if we can help in any way.

We've been at this point before, and I know we'll all believe it when we see it. But one way or another, we've got to fix this unacceptable tax on our region.
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