CAMPBELL COUNTY, Ky. -- In the last two years, three new hotels have sprung up in Campbell County: A nearly-finished Holiday Inn Express in Wilder, the boutique Aloft at Newport on the Levee and a brand-new Hampton Inn & Suites at the foot of the Taylor-Southgate Bridge.
These additions doubled Campbell County's previous chain hotel offerings, an increase that tourism officials say will help support growth in overnight visitors to Northern Kentucky in coming years.
Visitors are coming for a number of reasons, according to Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Eric Summe.
"Northern Kentucky University has always been a driver, with students and their families visiting campus and attending sporting events," Summe said. "But with the addition of the BB&T Arena and even more concerts and events, there's now a lot more interest and need for accommodations in and around Highland Heights."
But, as Summe points out, it's more than just NKU that's drawing visitors to Campbell County.
The recently realigned Kentucky Route 9 -- a yearslong project nearing completion this summer -- is expected to free up previously congested parts of Newport and spawn significant residential and retail development on the city's western edge.
On Campbell County's riverfront, Newport on the Levee is nearing its 20th birthday, and organizers are making efforts to attract viable tenants with better programming and community partnerships. Southbank Partners, the group tasked with maintaining the Levee-adjacent Purple People Bridge, will repaint and install vendors along that structure later this summer.
Meanwhile, the United Soccer League's FC Cincinnati recently released renderings for a new stadium with Newport as the imagined backdrop, prompting speculation about the future plans.
"The FC rendering is just one imagined scenario, but tourism is an absolute driver for economic development and Newport and Campbell County are ripe for that right now," said Summe.
In terms of hotel accommodations in Northern Kentucky's three counties, Boone County -- home to Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport -- has long been the clear frontrunner, with nearly 80 hotel properties.
Summe believes that in addition to Campbell County's recent positive growth, Kenton County will also begin to see additional tourism growth as both the Riverfront Commons and Brent Spence Bridge improvement projects get underway.
A new report from the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet shows positive tourism growth for all three Northern Kentucky counties last year. For Campbell County, the report shows tourist activity generated nearly $97 million in direct tourist spending; $152.5 million in total tourist spending; $34.2 million in worker income; $2.1 million in local tax revenues and $14 million in state tax revenue.
On an average day in 2016, visitors to Campbell County spent $265,692. As a result of taxes generated by tourist spending in Campbell County, each of the county's more than 35,000 households paid an average of $450 less in local and state taxes, according to the report.
Put another way, if those tourism dollars were not coming into the county, each household's tax liability would be approximately $450 more.
"The importance of visitor dollars is growing across all three counties," said Summe. "As long as the trend continues, we will see more and more hotels, restaurants and retail springing up across Northern Kentucky."