Tourism and convention bureau officials across the commonwealth are readying a warm welcome for an estimated 500,000 visitors from across the globe, making plans to showcase their respective communities during next year’s 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
The event will be held Sept. 25 through Oct. 10, 2010.
Tom Caradonio, president/CEO of the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau knows firsthand what a WEG attendee experiences. He attended the games in Aachen, Germany, in 2006 for research on the 2010 games with other state officials.
Tourism marketing in Germany during their WEG stint was virtually nonexistent, he said. Anything he ventured out to see on his own was based on his own online research.
“My own personal experience was I didn’t see people doing much past the games when I went to Germany,” he said.
He said his area hopes to reap benefits from games-related traffic and spending, and any free time visitors may have for sightseeing.
One of the most important aspects for Caradonio’s region is that the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport has been declared a quarantine zone for arriving horses before they travel to Lexington, which is about an hour away. There are also about 7,400 hotel rooms in northern Kentucky, he said.
And Caradonio hopes that seeing what the area has to offer tourism-wise will inspire games-goers to return and visit more of them on any subsequent trips.
He expects Kentucky’s tourism entities’ hard work and preplanning to pay off and spark interest.
“We’ve got some really good things working that really weren’t in place over there,” he said.
The Cincinnati Bengals will be playing during the games, and northern Kentucky also boasts attractions like Newport on the Levee and the Newport Aquarium, Caradonio said.
“I think we’re going to be happy if they enjoy their stay and if we can sell tickets for some of our attractions,” he said. “That would be optimum.”
All of Kentucky’s tourism regions are participating in the “Kentucky Experience.”
The Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet and the Department of Travel are coordinating tourism efforts for the games.
An interactive attraction called the Kentucky Experience at the games will feature 25,000 s.f. of exhibits, displays, Kentucky products such as bourbon, wine and food, and art. The area will include a welcome center, entertainment pavilion, exhibit pavilion and product pavilion, plus a large courtyard. Since it will be on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park, attendees at the Alltech 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games will be able to visit the Kentucky Experience without leaving the grounds of the park.
“Seldom does any city, state or region get an opportunity of worldwide significance as large as the 2010 Alltech World Equestrian Games,” said Marchetta Sparrow, secretary of the Tourism Cabinet. “The Kentucky Experience will showcase Kentucky’s assets, not only to those who come to the games, but also to their friends, associates and others who watch from anywhere in the world. That will increase interest – and business – in Kentucky over the long term. Our hope is that our guests will return to Kentucky for a trip or travel during their visit for the World Equestrian Games.”
Hotel industry officials like Kentucky Hotel and Lodging Association Executive Director Ray Gillespie are waiting expectantly to see if their rooms fill to capacity with WEG guests as anticipated. The association is a nonprofit hospitality industry group based in Frankfort that represents about 200 members statewide.
“This whole event, the World Equestrian Games, has been hyped over the last couple of years and expectations have been raised,” Gillespie said. “I think the hoteliers have responded by getting their staffs prepared for the guests that they hope to have.”
Gillespie believes the hordes of guests will tax the state’s hotel industry, particularly in the central swath of the state, and managers are gearing up already to manage the increase, welcome these visitors and ensure them an enjoyable stay in the Bluegrass.
He said even into the future, the WEG’s success here will inspire other horse-related groups to choose to hold their larger events in Kentucky.
“I think it’s an exciting adventure. It gives us an opportunity to showcase Kentucky to the world, and our hotel industry will be a major part of that,” Gillespie said.
“It’s almost like having company come… I think anytime you know people are coming and you have a deadline, you want to put your best foot forward,” said David Lord, president of the Lexington Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Lord said Lexington’s efforts at this point are focused on servicing the people who are coming, making sure they have places to stay, and have the information needed to plan a pleasant visit – 10 satellite visitor information centers will be set up at major hotels and the airport, he said.
Nearby Berea, Frankfort and Georgetown are also developing their own visitor outreach programs, Lord said.
In addition, 1,000 media representatives are also expected, with 60 countries of 150 expected that will be beaming live feeds of the games back to their home countries, requiring technical infrastructure and expertise.
During the course of the World Equestrian Games, Lexington is also hosting a free 17-day downtown extravaganza called Spotlight Lexington that will include entertainment, food, special events, arts and crafts, said Krista A. Greathouse, World Equestrian Games liaison in the Office of the Mayor.
Greathouse said planning for the event began about 18 months ago. Using attendance at a past Fourth of July event as a guide, she expects up to 400,000 people to come to Spotlight Lexington. (Not all will be unique individuals, as some may attend more than one day’s events.)
A community forum was held in September for businesses to learn more about how to prepare. Another goal is to educate in- and out-of-state and international guests about what the area has to offer so they can plan a return trip, Greathouse said.
Two and a half hours from the games’ site, Marissa Butler, public relations director for the Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and staff are preparing regional promotional events, including the Horse Cave area and some of the more popular agritourism destinations.
Sample itineraries are being created that include the world-famous Mammoth Cave, the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University and the National Corvette Museum, which has recently undergone a 115,000-s.f. expansion.
Particular promotional attention will also be paid to Bowling Green’s historic downtown square, Butler said, with its Fountain Square Park, restaurants and boutiques.
“That is certainly the heritage and quaintness that we like to show off anytime we can,” she said.
A regional approach is also being used by the nonprofit TOUR Southern & Eastern Kentucky tourism initiative that aims to enhance and promote tourism opportunities for a 47-county region in that part of the state.
President/CEO Jeff Crowe said itineraries are being readied to entice visitors, along with a newly printed guide to the region’s tourism offerings, packed with colorful photographs of the area.
Free hospitality training programs are also offered for business owners to market themselves as the best places to eat, stay and visit during the games.
“Our goal is to make sure those visitors have the greatest experience and have unbridled excitement,” Crowe said.
Sue Dowdy, executive director of the Ashland Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said every event held there from now until the World Equestrian Games will center around that theme, and as a region, various tours are being developed for media and other visitors.
A speakers bureau is being developed to inform civic and community groups about the games, and the tourism bureau is advertising in state and national publications, as well as in a new brochure and on its Web site.
The Ashland area, about 118 miles from Lexington, will also be prominently featured during two days of the event. Each tourism region in the state – Eastern Highlands North in this case – will get a similar chance to advertise their offerings at “The Kentucky Experience” pavilion during WEG events in Lexington.
In Frankfort, officials have been working with the FEI since the game site was announced to be in Lexington a few years ago, said Robin Antenucci, sales and marketing director for the Frankfort/Franklin County Tourist Commission.
A task force comprised of community leaders and citizens is in place to plan logistics, activities and other preparations, meeting monthly with subcommittees charged with event planning, transportation, communication, language interpretation and community beautification tasks.
Frankfort has about 850 hotel rooms, Antenucci said, and a group of 150 people from Australia has already made their reservations to stay in Frankfort, with activities and entertainment being planned for their free time.
“It’s a niche audience and there’s going to be people who will come to this event – I think it will be a boost to the local economy,” she said.
Owensboro officials are in the beginning stages of planning for WEG events and activities, said Karen Miller, executive director of the Owensboro Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Still, she said, it’s a given the International Bluegrass Music Museum, the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art and the Bill Monroe Homeplace will be featured stops for tour groups, as Owensboro and other tourism entities work closely with state tourism officials to create bus or day tours for their areas.
The fine art museum will have a special exhibit, “The Bronze Horse,” during the games, Miller said.
“I think it’s going to be pretty neat because it’s going to be featuring Thoroughbred and Saddlebred horses in works of bronze,” she said.
Jim Wood, CEO of the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau said a local host committee is planning for activities during the World Equestrian Games, and is also offering overflow hotel space. He expects to see a “huge influx” of travelers booking rooms in luxury downtown hotels.
“We’ve got a nice variety for them to choose from,” he said.
Even in Paducah, in the far west portion of the state, the World Equestrian Games aren’t going unnoticed.
Paducah-McCracken County Convention & Visitors Bureau Marketing Director Rosemarie Steele said a quilt exhibit at the National Quilt Museum of the United States will hold a juried exhibit of horse-themed quilts.
“The exhibit will be on display in early fall of 2010 during the WEG,” Steele said. “Having received the ‘national’ designation by Congress last May, and having gained international acclaim, the museum is a standout attraction for the entire country, and we are sure it will bring national and international visitors to Paducah.”
In addition, the Paducah Area Painters Alliance (PAPA) will have an exhibit of works by local artists featuring horses, equestrians and local landscapes during the games, Steele said.
Paducah will also be represented in the Kentucky’s Western Waterlands region exhibit at the The Kentucky Experience pavilion, she noted.
The Alltech 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian sports: show jumping, dressage, eventing, driving, endurance, reining, vaulting and para-equestrian (dressage). WEG is expected to draw 800 athletes and half a million visitors during 16 days of competition at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Sept. 25-Oct. 10.
Estimates are 600,000 tickets will be sold. Average daily attendance is expected to be 35,000 to 55,000 people, said Krista A. Greathouse, World Equestrian Games liaison for the Office of the Mayor in Lexington. About 1,000 members of the media from around the world are expected.
Held every four years – two years before the Olympic Games – WEG is governed by the Federation Equestre Internationale. FEI officials estimate the games will have a $150 million economic impact on the state, based on jobs created in association with the games and on visitor spending during the event.
The first games were held in 1990 in Stockholm, Sweden. The 2006 games were held in Aachen, Germany. The 2014 WEG will be in Normandy, France.
Source: feigames.com, Lexington mayor’s office
Follow the Games
For more information about the Alltech 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games, visit feigames.com.
For more information about Spotlight Lexington, a free 17-day festival held in downtown Lexington to celebrate the WEG with entertainment, food, special events, arts and crafts, visit spotlightlexky.com.
And to find out more about the Federation Equestre Internationale, visit fei.org.
Tickets for the games went on sale Sept. 25 and are available at