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The Cincinnati USA Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) has announced the creation of the Cincinnati USA Institute for Hospitality Leadership, which will work with schools, colleges and hospitality businesses to create a curriculum to prepare more skilled workers and leaders for the continued expansion of the travel and hospitality sector.

Finding skilled workers is often cited as an impediment to growth in Ohio's travel and hospitality industry, which ranks seventh in the nation for the number of jobs supported by the travel economy—a number which grew 12.5 percent in the past five years.

President and CEO Dan Lincoln and Vice President of Multicultural & Community Development Jason Dunn discuss how the Institute will build the future of Ohio's travel industry.

Why is the Institute important for the travel and hospitality sector?

Lincoln: The Cincinnati travel and tourism industry is a $4.4 billion industry, employing 74,000 people in a variety of fields and bringing 24.1 million visitors to the region each year. We continue to add new hotel rooms and restaurants at an incredibly fast rate.

The Institute will demonstrate to students that the travel, tourism and hospitality industry can be economically and professionally rewarding. We will help students learn the skills they need to be successful in our industry. This helps the travel and hospitality sector by creating a larger and deeper talent pool. Also, like those who complete our Certified Tourism Ambassador program, students who study through the Institute will have a deep knowledge of how travel is an economic driver that helps grow the local economy.

According to research performed by Cox and Balke, multiculturalism—with associated implications of inclusion—has been linked to affording companies a competitive advantage. It promotes an upbeat reputation among potential employees and encourages more creativity and effective problem solving among workers. Additionally, the study found that a culturally diverse employee base more easily interacts with guests from various backgrounds, providing an important component in first-class guest service.

The Institute will introduce diverse talent to all levels of the exciting world of hospitality. This holistic program provides participants a variety of opportunities including professional development, executive exposure and hands-on learning experiences unlike any other. The best aspect of the program is that it may open doors to new opportunities and experiences.

What does the Institute offer students?

Lincoln: We are developing a curriculum that will begin in seventh grade and continue through college. The curriculum will be built with strong input from our hospitality community task force, which will consist of business leaders, civic leaders, educators and industry professionals. It will prepare them for work in the industry. Further, our partners in the industry are willing to provide internships in their businesses so that students get valuable, real world experience. The task force will also focus on ensuring that inclusion and diversity are key strategies in final plan.

What does the Institute offer the community?

Dunn: The tourism industry accounts for one in 14 jobs in Hamilton County. Tourism saves every household in Cincinnati more than $600 in taxes. Anything we do to keep this industry healthy and growing is important for us to do for the community. Further, we believe that having a highly skilled, diverse workforce in our sector is directly related to the number of travelers who want to come back. If visitors have good experiences in our hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail outlets, visitors will want to return. That growth will drive even more new hotels, restaurants, attractions, and retail—which will bring even more jobs to Cincinnati.

Does your CVB or DMO have a similar program? We'd love to hear from you and learn how you're building the future of tourism. Please comment below. 

 Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.

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