Kentucky’s tourism industry is once again gearing up for the summer travel season. As someone who has worked in the industry for more than 30 years, I believe we have many good reasons to be optimistic about 2012.
Recently, during National Travel and Tourism Week, our cabinet announced that the tourism industry had an economic impact of almost $11.7 billion in Kentucky during 2011 – an increase from the previous year. Tourism also supported about 170,000 jobs in the state and generated more than $2.6 billion in wages.
We’re hoping to do even better in 2012. That’s why I’m writing you – my fellow Kentuckians.
I would like to invite you to travel in Kentucky. There is most likely someplace in the Bluegrass State you have thought about visiting and just never got around to it. Or perhaps there is a place you visited years ago and always wanted to return. I urge you to take some time and travel in your own state this year.
Need some ideas? Our Department of Travel and Tourism is currently using its “There’s Only One Kentucky” campaign to call attention to the many unique attractions across Kentucky. This includes places such as Mammoth Cave, Cumberland Falls, the Bourbon Trail, the Belle of Louisville and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area. For a complete list, visit www.kentuckytourism.com.
When speaking of “Only Ones,” the Bourbon Trail is receiving national and international attention for its driving tour of distilleries where you can learn how Kentucky’s famous spirits are made while taking a relaxing drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in America. There are small towns along the way that offer great dining and shopping opportunities as well as interesting tourism attractions.
Also look for farmers markets that sell fresh-grown Kentucky Proud produce. There is no better souvenir to take home than a basket of homegrown tomatoes.
These are just a few of the interesting places Kentucky has to offer. We also encourage Kentuckians and our guests to seek outdoor adventure with activities such as horseback riding, hiking, camping, canoeing and cycling. Kentucky State Parks have great opportunities for you to enjoy these adventures as well as other recreational areas for fishing and wildlife viewing. Our Office of Adventure Tourism has catalogued more than 12,000 miles of various types of trails throughout the state.
Kentucky has numerous local, state and national parks and wildlife management areas that permit visitors to see and learn about the wonders of nature. There’s no better classroom for a child than the forest.
Along with these adventure locations are numerous downtown Main Streets and historic sites that will make your trip even more interesting and entertaining.
For example, during the first weekend in October this year, thousands of people will converge on Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the largest Civil War battle in the state. It will include battle re-enactments, tours and living history.
Perhaps your family has roots in another part of the state. Visit a courthouse or library to learn about your ancestors and take in the sites of the area. Learn about our state’s rich equine history at the Kentucky Horse Park or try one of the many museums around the state that have everything from Native American culture to the works of Kentucky artisans.
I encourage you to travel this year to a place in Kentucky that interests you and then tell someone else about it. Word-of-mouth is one of the most influential methods of advertising. You’ll be supporting an industry that is important in every community across the Commonwealth.
Whether you come from one of our urban centers or our rural areas, Kentuckians are proud of their heritage and their home state. Help us get the word out about all of the special places to enjoy just a short drive away – after all, “There’s Only One Kentucky.”
Marcheta Sparrow is secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.