Despite soft economy, tourism still on fast rise

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By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - The economy is soft across the nation.

But in the area of tourism, the state of Kentucky and Bullitt County are faring much better than other areas of the country.

Elaine Wilson, executive director of the Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourism and Convention Commission, presented members of Bullitt Fiscal Court with a look back at the past year.

The discussion not only looked at numbers from the past but also gave members some insight into the current marketing plans for the county.

In 2008, Wilson said Bullitt County tourism-related businessed actually saw a 20 percent growth.

After accounting for $91 million in sales in 2007, that number rose to $113 last year, said Wilson.

As a whole the state tourism dollars were down 3.2 percent, which Wilson said is better than many other states.

With the soft economy, Wilson said the strategy must change in terms of attracting people to stay in the county.

The marketing has targeted places like Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Nashville, all easily accessable within a couple of hours of Bullitt County.

The tourist commission has developed packages where people can see a number of attractions during their one- or two-day stay in the county.

Being part of the Bourbon Trail also offers a marketing option for the county.

“We have great attractions in this community,” said Wilson.

Many times, she said people in the county may not realize what is available locally.

Jim Beam and its American Outpost attracts around 100,000 visitors annually and Wilson said that will double when the new visitor’s experience opens in a couple of years.

Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest attracts over 250,000 visitors annually.

And Kart Kountry has nearly 200,000 visitors each year.

There are three wineries in the county and Wilson said there will be a way to market those to visitors. She said some discussion has been held on a wine festival.

Hawk’s View Gallery and Cafe offers glass blowing and fine food.

“People are coming to our community,” said Wilson.

She estimated 1,700 jobs are in tourism-related positions.

And with the marketing in other areas like Detroit and Chicago, Wilson said Bulitt County is targeted as a destination point to rest for the evening while travelers are heading to places like Florida.