Cincinnati’s Global Identity: Part I

Cincinnati Visitors’ and Convention Bureau

With Britain leaving the EU and more people in the world seeking new homelands than at any time since World War II, it is an excellent time to consider how our region is connected to the world outside the U.S. and what the rest of the world knows and thinks about Cincinnati.  In other words what is our global identity and what do we want it to be?   Do we claim our global heritage and ties to our advantage to promote, connect and celebrate our region?  Is there a unifying event that could bring all of our regional global interests and activities together on a yearly basis?  What are our strengths and our opportunities to improve our interactions with the rest of the world?

These are questions I am exploring with a number of organizations in Cincinnati in a series of articles on global identity.   The Cincinnati Visitors’ and Convention Bureau (CVB) is the first.


Cincinnati Visitors’ and Convention Bureau (CVB)

So how do we use our international assets to enhance Cincinnati?  I spoke to two current employees at the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, (CVB) who are directly involved in bringing visitors to our region.  Dave Ziegler is the National Sales Manager at the CVB.  He came to Cincinnati from the East Coast and worked with the Cincinnati Reds for nine years before taking on his current work.  Debbie Pappadakes is the Senior Communications Manager at the CVB who moved here from Lexington, Kentucky four years ago.

When I first mentioned Cincinnati’s international identity, Ms. Pappadakes, said that the CVB would have some important international events announcements in the foreseeable future.  These will add to CVB’s growing reputation of attracting and booking international conventions in Cincinnati.


Citizen Input Makes a Difference

How did this happen?  In one case it was through a research connection at one of our local universities.  Ziegler put it this way:  “One of the best ways to get conventions here, domestic or international, is through individuals who live here, love our city and have professional associations or personal connections to the larger world.  They are willing to suggest our city as a venue for conventions and provide support to bring these events to Cincinnati.” Made largely because of civic pride, these “citizen connections” bring a wide range of conventions to Cincinnati for the first time.   They often result in “repeat business.”

According to Ziegler, “once we get people to Cincinnati, convention goers often fall in love with our hospitality, facilities, and our affordability.   They see many of the same qualities in Cincinnati that make those of us who live here want to stay here.  They want to come back.”  With Chapters in the U.S. and in countries worldwide, a good example of this “repeat business” is the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  Their second convention, booked for 2024, will bring 20,000 people to Cincinnati.  Yes, that’s how far out conventions are sometimes booked.


Cincinnati As An International Destination: Arts and Business

Ms. Papadakos put it this way.  “We feel we are an international destination and here is why.   We have a tremendously rich international reputation through our arts and culture institutions, CSO, May Festival, Art Museums, Ballet, Opera, and much more.”  The World Choir Games is a great example of the CVB’s leadership and impact.  It was a huge undertaking and a success that brought in performers and audiences from all over the world to the delight of our entire region.

Pappadakas added:  “Cincinnati regularly receives high profile media attention for our deep commitment to the arts in all forms, in publications such as the New York Times read all over the world.”  Just last week, the NY Times positively reviewed Fellow Travelers, a new opera debuting as part of Cincinnati Opera’s current summer season.  Coverage like this leads to more tourism and adds to the luster of our global arts image

Pappadakas also attributes the CVB’s success to “a large presence of foreign businesses in our region, including both Fortune 500 companies and foreign chambers.   These businesses bring international employees to live here as well as visitors, both possible connections to attract conventions.  To welcome visitors, our Visitors Center on Fountain Square is a great stop for international tourists, especially from Germany.  Our Certified Tourism Ambassador Program trains local residents from a wide range of professions to speak with knowledge about our region and to speak from the same playbook.”


How We Compete

Ziegler mentioned that CVB sees Cincinnati as an ‘international convention destination” and pursues that vision vigorously. “We don’t concede to any city or set limits on who we bid to host unless the request for proposal sets in stone needs which we know we can’t fulfill.”  .

The CVB, forges strong partnerships to bring visitors and conventions from all over the world to Cincinnati by showcasing the best that Cincinnati has to offer.   In so doing CVG burnishes our image in the world.  The CVB use of and vision of our international identity and connections keep visitors and conventions committing to our region and add greatly to our economic vitality.

Look out for part II soon!
Want to be contacted as soon as part II is available? Email to let Arnela know! 

Written by:
Deborah E. Schultz
President, Trans-Borders Solutions
Advisory Group, Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council


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