Home » Opinion — Bob Stewart: Tourism vital to Kentucky

Opinion — Bob Stewart: Tourism vital to Kentucky

May 2-10 is National Travel and Tourism Week

(May 4, 2015) — The first week of May is “National Travel and Tourism Week and will be observed this year from May 2-10. This annual observance was established by a congressional resolution in 1983 and first celebrated the following year.

Bob Stewart
Bob Stewart

“Travel and Tourism Week” also coincides with the time of year that most of us begin planning how to enjoy the warmer spring and summer months as we enter the busy summer travel season. It’s only appropriate, then, that May would be the time to salute the travel industry and champion the power of the hospitality industry, both here in Kentucky and nationally.

And this industry is powerful indeed. Nationally, the direct spending on leisure travel alone (excluding all business travel) by both domestic and international travelers totaled $644.9 billion, according to the U.S. Travel Association. This spending by travelers generated over $96 billion in tax revenue, and the report noted that U.S. residents logged 1.7 billion person-trips for leisure in 2014.

In Kentucky, the direct spending by travelers in 2014 totaled $8.3 billion in Kentucky, an increase of 4.4 percent over 2013, one of the largest increases ever. The overall economic impact of the tourism industry in 2014, including both direct and indirect expenditures, was $13.1 billion, which generated $1.37 billion in state and local tax revenues and $2.9 billion in wages paid to Kentucky workers.

Tourism is vital to the economic vitality of Kentucky as it is the nation. This is an industry that employs over 179,000 in the commonwealth alone, and these jobs range from front-line workers (such as waiters and hotel desk clerks) to highly trained and skilled professionals such as marketers, communications specialists, chefs and hotel general managers.

It is a great industry, which contributes mightily to our economy and significantly impacts the quality of life we enjoy right here in Kentucky.

Any community with a thriving tourism industry is also a community that people enjoy living and working in. A community that attracts visitors also boasts a vibrant arts and culture scene and carefully protects and promotes its history and heritage.

This is what draws visitors and residents to the historic downtowns throughout Kentucky. These are the places where people want to visit and the communities where people want to live, work and raise their families.

The tourism appeal of a place is directly linked to the art, culture, history and architecture of that place, which offers plenty to experience that is unique and authentic to that location. That’s what makes a successful tourism destination, and we are blessed with many such destinations from one end of Kentucky to the other.

I hope every Kentuckian will take a moment during “National Travel and Tourism Week” to be mindful of the importance of tourism on our economy, and to also be grateful for all the outstanding places we have to see and things we have to enjoy in this commonwealth.

Better yet, I urge my fellow Kentuckians to pick a place in Kentucky that you have not yet visited and do so this year. Kentucky is blessed with so much natural beauty and interesting places—make this the year you experience that one destination right here in the commonwealth that has always intrigued you.

Check out www.kentuckytourism.com to plan your 2015 Kentucky summer adventure — I am confident you’ll find the perfect leisure getaway right here at home!

Bob Stewart is Secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet