Whitley County, Williamsburg and Corbin tourism officials were honored Monday by the Kentucky Travel Industry Association with an Economic Engine Award for their work to make tourism a major economic driver in the community.
“Tourism is a premiere driver of Kentucky’s economy. Not enough people realize that,” said Kentucky Travel Industry Association President/CEO Hank Phillips, who presented copies of the award to local tourism officials Monday at Williamsburg City Hall.
Tourism is the third largest industry in the state, and is a major economic generator for Kentucky with a $14.5 billion economic impact, and supports 193,000 Kentucky jobs.
“It generates over $1.5 billion in local and state tax revenue,” Phillips told the standing room only crowd that was also gathered for the dedication of the Hall of Mayors.
Tourism trails only the healthcare industry and automotive industry in economic impact in our state.
There are two ways a county earns an Economic Engine Award.
The first is for a county to be among the top Kentucky counties in terms of the economic impact of tourism overall.
The second way is jobs related looking at tourism related jobs as percentage of all the jobs in the county.
Whitley County has $101 million in annual tourism economic impact, and there are over 1,200 jobs supported by tourism.
“You folks would be very proud to know that Whitley County didn’t earn its economic engine award on one of those criteria,” Phillips said. “You win this award – the whole county does – not just on one of those criteria. You should be very proud.”
Whitley County Judge-Executive Pat White Jr., who accepted the award on behalf of the Whitley County Tourism Commission, agreed that tourism is something that is very important to Whitley County’s economy.
White noted that when he first started as judge-executive, he restarted and funded the Whitley County Tourism Commission, which has lead to projects like the Canoe the Cumberlands river access points and the Copperhead Motorcycle Trail.
“It is truly something I am passionate about. The reason why is because I love this area. I think many of you all will agree with me on that so it is easy to welcome people to this area if you appreciate it yourself,” White said.
“We really have beautiful assets in our county in our river, in our lake, in our waterpark and in our arena. We have the most successful state park in the Kentucky state park system. We have a lot to offer other people and I hope we are able to continue doing that. We appreciate your recognition.”
Maggy Kriebel, Director of Corbin Tourism and Convention Commission, echoed similar sentiments.
“It is truly an honor and a pleasure on behalf of the Corbin Tourism Commission and the city of Corbin to be a joint recipient and to stand here in unison with the city of Williamsburg to benefit the county,” Kriebel said.
“It takes the hard work, dedication, team work and partnership of all of us to enhance the quality of life for tourists and citizens alike, and we feel very blessed to have that opportunity.”
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison said the award is a tremendous honor for the city and Williamsburg tourism officials.
“You know who needs the credit? It is you guys. It is the people,” Harrison told the crowd. “Every time we have anything in town – the jeep jamboree, little league tournaments that we are hosting, softball – the one thing everybody leaves here and says is your people are the nicest people we can ever find … We treat them just like they are family that is why we say it feels like home.”
Phillips added that tourism is a team effort.
“They are receiving these awards on behalf of their organizations, but really in total on behalf of the county because tourism does not succeed like it has in Whitley County without the support of state legislators, without the leadership of your local officials, and without tourism businesses throughout the county working day in and day out to deliver services to visitors. They give them experiences and memories that they will take home with them and send other people,” Phillips noted.