Kentucky's tourism industry is gearing up for the summer travel season. Having worked in the industry for more than 30 years, I believe we have many good reasons to be optimistic about 2012.
Recently, during National Travel and Tourism Week, our cabinet announced that the tourism industry had an economic impact of almost $11.7 billion in Kentucky during 2011 — an increase from the previous year. Tourism also supported about 170,000 jobs in the state and generated more than $2.6 billion in wages.
We're hoping to do even better in 2012. I would like to invite my fellow Kentuckians to travel in Kentucky. There is most likely someplace in the Bluegrass State you have thought about visiting, or someplace you visited years ago and always wanted to return to. Need some ideas? How about Mammoth Cave, Cumberland Falls, the Bourbon Trail, the Belle of Louisville or Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area? For a complete list, visit www.kentuckytourism.com.
The Bourbon Trail is receiving international attention for its driving tour of distilleries, where you can learn how Kentucky's famous spirits are made, in some of the most beautiful countryside in America. There are small towns along the way that offer great dining, shopping, tourism attractions and farmers markets with fresh-grown Kentucky Proud produce. There is no better souvenir than a basket of homegrown tomatoes.
We also encourage Kentuckians and their guests to seek outdoor adventure, such as horseback riding, hiking, camping, canoeing or cycling. Kentucky State Parks have great opportunities for these adventures as well as for fishing and wildlife viewing. Our Office of Adventure Tourism has catalogued more than 12,000 miles of various types of trails throughout the state.
Kentucky has many local, state and national parks and wildlife management areas. There's no better classroom for a child than the forest.
There are also many Main Streets and historic sites that will make your trip more interesting and entertaining.
For example, during the first weekend in October, thousands of people will converge on Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site for the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the largest Civil War battle in the state. It will include battle re-enactments, tours and living history.
Perhaps your family has roots in another part of the state. Visit a courthouse or library to learn about your ancestors and take in the sights. Learn about our state's rich equine history at the Kentucky Horse Park or try one of the many museums that have everything from Native American culture to the works of Kentucky artisans.
Travel this year to a place in Kentucky that interests you and then tell someone else about it. You'll be supporting an industry that is important in every community across the commonwealth.
Whether you come from one of our urban centers or our rural areas, Kentuckians are proud of their heritage and their home state. Help us get the word out about all of the special places to enjoy just a short drive away — after all, "There's Only One Kentucky."