Throughout Kentucky, tourism is playing a greater role in local economies and the Lincoln Trail region is no exception. Our region’s rich history, beautiful natural landscapes, ability to quench the world’s thirst for bourbon and much more not only make our region a great place to live and work, but also a great place to visit.
And with each visit, our local economy grows that much stronger. In fact, on a state level, tourism contributed more than $13 billion to Kentucky’s economy last year, including nearly 180,000 jobs. In the eight-county Lincoln Trail region, travel expenditures totaled 512.5 million in 2014.
That economic impact wouldn’t be as strong if it weren’t for the quality of our tourism workforce. As the face of our community, this workforce provides the hospitality, customer service and enthusiasm that bring our area’s attractions to life.
“Tourism growth has been phenomenal,” said Sherry Murphy, executive director of the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau. “Our area is perfectly situated close to many tourist attractions, but just far enough away from cities so tourists don’t have to pay city prices.”
In Nelson County, one of the area’s most storied attractions is the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Formed in 1999, the trail offers visitors a firsthand look at the history and making of bourbon. In Bardstown, the Bourbon Capital of the World, Kentucky Bourbon Festival attracted a crowd of 53,000 people hailing from nearly every state and 14 different countries.
Another large draw for the region is the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville.
“We have welcomed tourists from all around Kentucky, 34 states and 10 countries,” said Krista Levee, executive director at Larue County Chamber of Commerce. The park sees around 200,000 visitors per year.
The park is part of the Kentucky Lincoln Heritage Trail, a journey of Lincoln’s boyhood through different sites in Kentucky, including stops in Hardin and Washington counties.
“We have a rich history in our area,” Murphy said. “And tourists are very interested in what we have to share.” The economic impact of tourism in the area has greatly increased over the past few years, she added.
“We’ve seen a huge impact from the Elizabethtown Sports Park,” Murphy said. “It’s a consistent tourist draw.” Opened in 2012, the direct spending impact during the park’s first year was between $11.9 and $14.1 million. It was designed to host national, regional and local sporting events and for every event, participants and their families will need places to stay and eat. That translates into local revenue.
Many outdoor recreational areas attract tourists to the area as well. These include Rough River Dam State Resort Park and Nolin Lake in Grayson County.
“Our direct and indirect tourism expenditures have increased consecutively over the past five years,” said Brittany Gary, Grayson County Tourism Director. “During peak season, our local lodging accommodations and restaurants have to hire temporary employees to help with the increased customers.”
According to Gary, tourism in Grayson County effects many different businesses, including banks, insurance agencies, and contractors for lake homes, in addition to the more expected gas stations, grocery stores and restaurants.
“Grayson County is fortunate because we have both Nolin Lake and Rough River Dam State Resort Park,” Gary said. “We have an exceptional amount of visitors throughout the summer months.”
Meade County also boasts an outdoor recreation spot. Otter Creek Outdoor Recreation Area has seen a large increase in the number of fly fishermen in the creek. Last year, the Meade County Chamber of Commerce began a concentrated effort to attract more fly fisherman, and because of that more people are traveling across state lines to fish at Otter Creek Park.
“No one had ever considered marketing fly fishing in Meade County,” said Carole Logsdon, Meade County Chamber director. “But because of our personal interest, we saw a market.”
The Lincoln Trail region, known as a part of Kentucky’s “Bourbon, horses and history” area, is ripe with fun, interesting things to do. Whether it’s Abraham Lincoln discovery, bourbon tasting, youth sports or outdoor recreation, our region has a strong quality of place that supports tourism and drives local economies.
As we continue to build this industry sector, business attraction, entreprenuership growth, workforce development and community development all will play a role in how we engage visitors in our region and meet their needs.
“Our area is becoming more of a regional draw,” Murphy said. “We have so many options for tourists, and more tourists mean more demand for service, which translates to a strong, positive economic impact.”
Dawn Przystal is vice president of tourism expansion and marketing for the Bardstown-Nelson County Tourist Commission. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.