A regional brand now identifies the 41 counties of southern and eastern Kentucky as an enticing tourist destination: The Kentucky Wildlands.
The Kentucky Wildlands is a regional tourism marketing initiative that showcases the region’s majestic beauty and rich heritage with the goal of driving economic development. Components of the initiative will include a media campaign, hospitality education, itinerary development and entrepreneur training.
The initiative was launched by Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, Inc. Known as PRIDE, the nonprofit organization has spearheaded environmental education and cleanup across the region since 1997, with the ultimate goal of uncovering the scenic area’s tourism potential. The Kentucky Wildlands initiative is funded by grants from the Appalachian Regional Commission and Economic Development Administration.
“After two years of research and team building, I am thrilled to announce that ‘The Kentucky Wildlands’ media campaign goes live online today,” Tammie Nazario, who is The Kentucky Wildlands Director and PRIDE President/CEO, said recently. “By packaging our communities’ tourism assets under this unifying brand, we greatly extend our outreach to potential tourists.”
“Since driving trips are popular now, we believe this is the perfect time to shine the spotlight on The Kentucky Wildlands,” she said. “Social distancing is made simple and fun in our vast landscape. Here, you can escape in peace and quiet or get wet and wild. You can explore hundreds of waterfalls with your family. You can spend hours in solitude along miles of trails designed for peaceful hiking and paddling or for exhilarating biking and mudslinging.”
“From the perspective of our local communities, the timing is also right for economic stimulus through tourism,” she added. “Our economy has been hit hard by current events — from the pandemic to the coal industry’s decline. We are ready to pull together, put our best foot forward and create jobs through tourism.”
“To join the excitement of The Kentucky Wildlands launch, please visit our new website, www.ExploreKYWildlands.com,” she said. “There are links so you can start following us on social media. The website is still under construction, but already it offers an inviting gateway to our region.”
“Stunning photography brings our region to life on our website and social media, and we are grateful to Greg Davis and Rodney Hendrickson for providing those images,” she said. “Their waterfall photographs, in particular, are breathtaking.”
“We wouldn’t be here today without Congressman Hal Rogers and Senator Mitch McConnell, who have supported this initiative from inception,” she said. “They recognized the potential and need for tourism-driven economic development here. Together, they introduced legislation in 2019 that would designate The Kentucky Wildlands as a National Heritage Area, which will include access to funding and technical assistance.”
“We are grateful for our local tourism directors and other local leaders who collaborated with us to develop a regional brand that truly captures our communities’ spirit and potential,” she said. “From town hall meetings to focus groups, these folks provided wisdom and insight to make sure the final product would be a useful tool for each community.”
“Last, but not least, I thank Steve Chandler of Chandlerthinks, our destination brand consultant,” she said. “He and his team developed the strategic plan, conducted the research and built the brand that culminated in The Kentucky Wildlands. He has been a tremendous partner in bringing our vision to life.”
“As a native of Kentucky, this is very exciting,” Chandler said. “As a branding professional, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. The Kentucky Wildlands will be a project that will be talked about all over the country for years.”
To engage The Kentucky Wildlands via social media, search for @explorekywildlands on Instagram and Facebook and @theykywildlands on Twitter.