A new report shows tourism related to Mammoth Cave National Park is responsible for $40 million in economic benefit to the region.
The analysis conducted by a group of economists with the U.S. Geological Survey measured the impact of tourism dollars spent by park visitors in 2013. According to the report, 494,541 visitors came to Mammoth Cave National Park last year, with tourism dollars supporting 567 jobs in the region.
Mammoth Cave acting superintendent Lizzie Watts told WKU Public Radio the nearly half-a-million visitors who came to the south-central Kentucky attraction did more than just spend money. She says they also walked away with an enhanced respect for the region that they take back with them to their communities across the U.S. and globe.
“The environment of Mammoth Cave is one of the most unique in the whole world. So just the experience of walking in the cave for many people, it’s the one time--and maybe the only time—they get that experience. And they can take that all over the world and say ‘yes, I was in the largest cave system in the whole world.’”
Watts says Mammoth Cave is seeing an increase in the number of visitors interested in boating along the Green River, as well as those using the eight-mile Big Hollow Trail, which was opened in December to mountain bikers, hikers, and runners.
“The park itself is really a mecca for recreation above the ground, in many ways, both biking and hiking, and boating and canoeing, kayaking, horseback riding.”
Overall, the new report says the 273.6 million visitors to National Park Service attractions in 2013 spent $14.6 billion in areas within 60 miles of a park.
Now that Lake Cumberland’s water level is back to its full summer point for the first time in eight years, the head of the state dock there says the region is in for a great tourist season.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced this week that the recent rain in southern Kentucky has pushed Lake Cumberland’s water level to 723 feet above sea level. The water level at the lake was dropped in 2007 while repair work was done on Wolf Creek Dam.
Lake Cumberland State Dock president Bill Jasper told WKU Public Radio it’s been a challenge fighting off negative public perceptions about the lake over the past eight years. He says this week’s news helps erase those problems.
“We’ve still got one of the biggest waterways east of the Mississippi in terms of volume of water, and people thought we were dry. So, we still get that question at boat shows. So this takes away all that uncertainty.”
Governor Steve Beshear has named a longtime tourism veteran to oversee the part of his cabinet dealing with travel and the arts.
Bob Stewart is a familiar face in state government, having worked for 11 years as commissioner of travel from 1992 to 2003.
And now, he'll be the new Tourism Secretary, having been appointed by Beshear to fill the post vacated by Marcheta Sparrow, who’s retiring.
Stewart is starting work for his fourth governor, having previously served under Brereton Jones, Martha Layne Collins and Julian Carroll. He's either played roles in tourism or worked as an executive assistant for those governors.
A new report says the economic impact of tourism in Kentucky grew again last year.
The study reports a $12 billion impact for tourism last year. That's up about four and a half percent from the previous year. In addition, the report credits tourism for 174,000 jobs and $2.7 billion in wages.
In a statement, tourism officials give partial credit to growth of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.
The series of distilleries has drawn steady interest since it's inception in 1999, but broke an attendance record last year, drawing over half a million visitors.
Owensboro's tourism economy took a pounding after its largest hotel, the Executive Inn Rivermont, closed in 2008 as the national economy started to falter, but now things are looking better. The Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is funded primarily by a hotel room tax, brought in $587,567 at the end of this fiscal year --more than the $512,000 budgeted.
Tourism officials say ten to fifteen thousand visitors are expected in Bowling Green for the National Bosniak Convention, which will be held Memorial Day weekend. Organizers of the event say it is usually held in larger cities, such as St. Louis or Toronto.
The ten-county Caves, Lakes and Corvettes Region saw an increase of 3.7% in direct tourism expenditures in 2011 equaling nearly $340 million. The increase added an overall amount of nearly $534 million in total expenditures to the region's economy.