Recent figures, calculated and released by Kentucky Tourism officials, paint a relatively bright picture of tourism in McCreary County. A state-wide report released last month revealed data for 2016 which designated 992 tourism related jobs in McCreary County and direct tourism expenditures during the same time period at more than five million dollars. Also in May, a state tourism calculation estimated the local economic impact of a recent, weekend trail race held in the County as being in excess of $150, 000, not including impact from overnight lodging.
Without a doubt, local tourism is an increasingly positive, economic force within McCreary County; however, for the average resident living in an area recently dubbed as the poorest in the nation, the figures and their method of calculation deserve a closer look.
An error in data submitted to the state for the report resulted in inflated numbers, leading tourism officials to re-submit information to obtain more accurate results.
One such error concerned the percentage of racers residing in Kentucky. The percentage of Kentucky racers was reported at 20 percent, when the actual figure, obtained from official race results, show that number to be above 50 percent. Of the out-of-state racers, approximately twenty percent were from Tennessee. Additional states represented in the race included Georgia, Ohio, Louisiana, New Hampshire, and North Carolina.
According to Kentucky Tourism’s Laura Negron, the most current data regarding tourism related employment and direct tourism expenditures was calculated by the Kentucky-based firm, Certec, that specializes in economic impact analysis. The process begins in January of each year with a series of surveys being sent to tourism-related businesses in each county across the state. The survey data, along with other tourism-related data such as tax information and third-party reported hotel occupancy data, is analyzed by Certec, Inc. In addition, in-person surveys are also conducted. Information gathered from surveys from the last several years is combined to give a full picture of tourist habits.
According to Negron, the “return on investment” or ROI for the local Yamacraw Trail Race, was not calculated as a true ROI but rather as an estimate of tourism expenditures during the event.
No specific surveys of racers or spectators were used to calculate data for the Yamacraw event.
The estimate of local economic impact in excess of $150,000 for the Yamacraw was determined by using the regional daily spending figure calculated by Certec as part of the economic impact report along with data from the event submitted to the state from the local level, including number of participants, spectators, origin of visitors, length of stay, etc. In addition, information specific to the impact of sporting events developed over time by the KY Sports Authority was also used in obtaining the local event estimate.
The estimate of economic impact for the Yamacraw Trail Race was conducted on May 17-the event was held on the weekend of April 7- and based primarily using three key pieces of information submitted to State Tourism officials. Primary information included: total number of racers, percentage of racers residing in Kentucky, and percentage of spectators.
Initial data submitted to the state for use in calculation of the event’s local economic impact indicated there were 580 racers (with 553 actually finishing the race) and only 20% of the racers being residents of Kentucky. The percentage of spectators was estimated and could not be verified.
The resulting data is then used to develop a figure for average visitor spending for each region. McCreary County is grouped in the “Kentucky Southern Shorelines” region alongside heavily visited tourism hotspots such as Pulaski County, Russell County, and other Lake Cumberland venues.
After calculation of a regional visitor spending figure, the results are then inputted into equations of the Certec Model developed for use in the report project. The resulting figures represent direct tourism expenditures. Direct visitor spending benefits key elements of the tourism industry infrastructure. These include the facility itself, hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, campgrounds and other lodging facilities, restaurants, automobile service stations, shopping centers and other retail outlets.
Going a step farther to obtain a total tourism impact figure which includes non-business stimulation (or indirect impact) from visitor spending, Certec applies a statewide multiplier of 1.572 to the direct expenditure figure, resulting in total economic impact. McCreary County’s total economic impact from tourism for 2016 is pegged in excess of eight million dollars.
Of the ten counties grouped together in Kentucky’s Southern Shorelines, McCreary is listed as eighth in both direct and total impact from tourism.
Tourism employment for each county is calculated using a formula and based on the direct economic impact (calculated using a regional visitor spending figure) and the tourism economy of each county. The resulting figure is not necessarily specific positions or staff members, but the number of jobs that are supported by tourists into a county. Within the ten county region, McCreary County is listed as fourth in number of tourism related jobs-falling behind Pulaski, Russell, and Clinton Counties.
Without a doubt, the recent releases of data regarding the economic impact of state, regional, and local tourism validate the importance of hosting events and developing tourism as means of strengthening the local economy. However, as is the case when using any sort of data, the releases also underscore the importance of analyzing and understanding data and its accuracy before using it to make assertions or decisions.
Government-released data must be accurately analyzed and understood in order to maintain credibility with the public and to make sound decisions for future growth and development.