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Tourism spending up 37 percent locally

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By Molly Haines

While Owen County’s tourism commission continues to search for ways to attract visitors, the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet recently announced the state’s largest growth in tourism dollars since 2005.
All nine of the state’s tourism regions registered gains in 2016, with more than $3 billion spent in the Northern Kentucky River Region, according to the economic impact study.
The Northern Kentucky River Region is comprised of Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Fleming, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Lewis, Mason, Owen, Pendleton and Robertson counties.
In Owen County alone, tourists directly spent nearly $4.5 million in 2016, a 37 percent increase from 2015, when visitors spent approximately $3.2 million.
Tourists reportedly supported 161 local jobs in 2016, up from 155 in 2015.
Owen County Tourism Director Joyce DuVall attributes the county’s gains to heightened public awareness.
“The people of Owen County have figured it out and helped spread the word that we’re here,” DuVall said. “I think our presence on social media and the web has been a big help. There’s a lot of people that have worked hard, so I think it’s a combination of a lot of things.”
The majority of the county’s tourism dollars come from Perry Park Golf Resort, which asks nothing of the tourism commission, according to DuVall.
“They’re just that little jewel,” she said. “With those two hotel buildings, that’s our main source of income.”
The tourism commission’s goal over the next year is to increase its web presence and complete its website.
“We may not see these gains again next year,” DuVall said of the report’s findings. “I don’t expect to see that next year and probably not ever again; I think we just got a jumpstart, but we’re going to be busy. I think once the (tourists visiting Grant County’s Ark Encounter) realize we’re here and we get the website going, that will really help.”
Owen County Judge-Executive Casey Ellis said he believes the community’s entrepreneurial spirit is growing stronger and that residents are beginning to capitalize on the county’s unique opportunities.
“It just goes to show what we have to offer here and that folks surrounding us within an hours drive have come to realize that we have what they don’t,” he said. “I hope that with the efforts of the tourism commission and the direction that has been set that the numbers will only continue to grow.”
Kentucky’s tourism industry generated $14.5 billion in economic impact during 2016, an increase of more than five percent from $13.7 billion in 2015. The industry supported 193,000 jobs statewide and generated more than $1.5 billion in tax revenue, with $195.1 million going directly to Kentucky’s communities in 2016.
The full tourism economic impact study is available at http://bit.ly/2qEcNKU.