Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Northern Ky. tourism rises

By James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Northern Kentucky tourism rebounded in 2002, even though the region's biggest attraction had a down year.

Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties reaped $593.7 million in tourism receipts in 2002, up 8 percent from the $549.1 million spent the preceding year, according to estimates released Monday by the Kentucky Tourism Development Cabinet.

Statewide, tourism spending rose 5.2 percent to $9.1 billion.

"We reached a new milestone by topping the $9 billion mark," said Kentucky Tourism Secretary Ann Latta. "I am very proud that in the seven years of this administration, tourism has increased by better than $2 billion, or 28.4 percent."

Latta said tourism ranks third among Kentucky's industries, behind health care and manufacturing. She said tourism employs more than 164,000 state residents and raised more than $942 million in state and local taxes last year.

Northern Kentucky, which employs 12,558 people in tourism, was one of the state's fastest-growing tourism venues.

Campbell County, home of the $215 million Newport on the Levee entertainment complex, posted a 15 percent increase in tourism receipts to $96.6 million.

Kenton County, site of the Northern Kentucky Convention Center, ended the year with $226.6 million, up 7 percent.

Boone County, which boasts the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and Turfway Park, had $270.5 million, up 6.5 percent.

Just downriver, in Gallatin County - home of the Kentucky Speedway - tourism spending rose 1.1 percent to $23.5 million.

But the region didn't get any help from its biggest draw, the Newport Aquarium. The state said the aquarium had 665,000 visitors in 2002, down from 769,000 in 2001. What had been the eighth most popular attraction in Kentucky in 2001 slid to 10th a year later.

No other Northern Kentucky attraction is in the state's top 25. The next closest is General Butler State Resort Park in Carroll County.

The state calculates tourism expenditures primarily through receipts from lodging, restaurants and attractions. Auto rental mileage, airline tickets and public transportation costs factor in the state's method of calculation.

The state also estimates that $1.97 billion was paid to tourism workers in 2002, up from $1.91 billion.

"The 2002 numbers are particularly significant in light of a soft economy and the national downturn in tourism in general during the past two years," Latta said. "Tourism remains Kentucky's third-largest revenue-producing industry with a bright future."

E-mail jmcnair@enquirer.com

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