The economic impact of tourism grew by 5.2 percent in eastern Kentucky last year, outpacing the overall statewide growth rate.
Locally, Carter County experienced a more than 8 percent jump in direct tourism expenditures during 2012 while Greenup and Lawrence counties also saw growth. Boyd County, however, saw a slight drop in tourism spending.
The economic impact of tourism statewide grew 4.4 percent and was more than $12.2 billion in 2012, according to an annual survey of the industry. Kentucky added 4,078 tourism jobs, bringing the total to more than 174,000 jobs, generating more than $2.7 billion in wages during 2012. Tourism also generated more than $1.227 billion in tax revenues for local and state governments, the report said.
In the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet’s designated Kentucky Appalachian Region, one of nine designated regions, direct expenditures rose more than $19 million from more than $365 million to $384 million. The Kentucky Appalachians region includes: Bath, Boyd, Carter, Elliott, Floyd, Greenup, Johnson, Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Pike and Rowan counties.
Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, explained the difference between direct and indirect expenditures used to generate the report, which was prepared by Certec Inc.: “The direct spending on this report is what is actually spent on what you and I would suspect is tourism. If someone rents a room, a rental car, buys a ticket to go to an attraction.”
Direct tourism expenditures are tracked several ways, including surveys, tax revenue statistics and airport figures.
Indirect expenditures, said Lawson, are based on a formula unique to Kentucky. “It takes into account other related spending. It is intended to give a complete picture of tourism spending whether by county or state,” said Lawson. For example, when a hotel is full it may use more water and electricity or buy additional soap and towels, or a tourism attraction may need additional supplies or uniforms. Those are all indirect dollars.
In Boyd County, direct expenditures dipped from $109.3 million to $107.5 million from 2011 to 2012. Total expenditures also fell from $171.9 million to $168.9 million.
Sue Dowdy, director of the Ashland Area Visitors and Convention Bureau, said she believes Boyd’s numbers fell in relation to the continued sluggish economy. Dowdy said she believes much of the drop has come from fewer hotels filled with contractors and construction workers.
Lawson also downplayed the drop in Boyd County, which was roughly 2 percent. “That is a one-year comparison,” he said. “That is not a major setback. It is good to have a plus sign there to show you are going in the right direction, but when you get down to the county level, there are many reasons those figures could be off,” Lawson said.
In Greenup County, direct tourism expenditures grew from $11.5 million in 2011 to $12.4 million in 2012. Total expenditures rose from $18.2 million to $19.6 million.
It was an increase Greenup Tourism Director Bobby Allen was delighted to see. “Any increase for us is great because we are a very small county tourism wise, in terms of what we have to offer.
“That shows a growing economy to me, and that county leaders and organizations are doing all they can to help Greenup County move forward,” he added. Allen said the Friends of Greenbo, a non-profit dedicated to helping Greenbo Lake State Resort Park grow, is continuing to explore and help implement new attractions at the park, including the soon-to-open Scuba refuge.
Tourism officials in Carter County also pointed to increased collaboration and dedicated volunteer groups for the improvement in tourism dollars.
Carter County reported $19.3 million in direct expenditures in 2011, compared to $21 million in 2012, an 8.8 percent change. Total expenditures rose from $30.3 million to $33 million.
“We’re excited about it,” said Brandon Fraley, chairman of the Grayson Tourism and Convention Commission. “Hopefully we can continue the momentum into next year. I think what it really starts with is a group of individuals who really want to promote the community where we live and where we’re all from,” he said, noting the agency tries to partner with as many businesses, agencies and groups as possible to promote activities and attractions.
Carter County also has added attractions in recent years, including Rock Springs Winery and new horse trails in Olive Hill. In Grayson, officials are working to develop new events, including a three-day Hometown Holiday celebration around Christmas; they hope the event will bring visitors downtown to shop, boosting local business revenue as well as attracting vendors and others.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about volunteers getting out and truly promoting their community and giving people reasons to come through (the community),” said Fraley.
CARRIE STAMBAUGH can be reached at (606) 326-2653 or by email at email@example.com.