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Op-Ed: Support Kentucky Tourism to Support Economic Growth

When people think of Kentucky tourism, horse racing, bourbon and many other memorable experiences likely come to mind. But what they may not realize is how many organizations and people make up Kentucky’s robust tourism industry, which is the third largest economic generator in the state.

Tourism is a key driver for Northern Kentucky’s businesses and local economy. Our diversity of compelling visitor experiences includes the Newport Aquarium, Newport on the Levee, and New Riff Distillery.  And then there is the appeal of making a visit to our shores by Cincinnati visitors or a short trip north by those enjoying the Ark Encounter.   Irrespective of which experiences motivate them, Northern Kentucky is host to thousands of visitors each year. Ultimately, this means more revenue, jobs and growth for our communities.

None of this would be possible, however, without tourism marketing funds. These funds enable our city to connect directly with travelers and showcase everything our area has to offer.

In 2016, tourism in Boone, Campbell, and Kenton Counties generated over $2.87 billion in economic impact and supported over 13,200 jobs. And the benefits extend well beyond our three county region.  Statewide, tourism is a $14.5 billion industry that supports 193,000 jobs and generates $1.52 billion in local and state tax revenue each year.

Tourism impacts the livelihood of many Kentucky companies, both directly and indirectly. If you’ve been on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail or the Kentucky Craft Distillery Trail Tour, you’ve seen this firsthand. A distiller’s primary business is to run a successful bourbon operation, but they also understand the value of increased consumer exposure.

Kentucky’s business leaders and lawmakers understand the importance of strengthening the health care, automotive and coal industries. The same attention should be given to the tourism industry, which plays just as critical a role when it comes to driving economic growth and has one of the highest returns on investment statewide.

This is why protecting the state and local hotel room taxes and restaurant taxes is so important—and just makes sense. These taxes generate revenue that  Northern Kentucky and other regions throughout our state can use to attract visitors that will visit our attractions, eat at our restaurants and stay at our hotels. Without these funds - and the taxes that make them possible -

we wouldn’t be able to reach potential tourists effectively.

Kentucky is blessed with exciting and plentiful visitor experiences. Tourists in our state leave with great tales, adventures and memories, but Kentuckians receive a great benefit as well in the form of jobs and economic growth.

As a state, we must refocus our mindset and open our eyes to the endless possibilities the tourism industry can bring to the Commonwealth and our economies.

Eric Summe is President and CEO of meetNKY l Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau