Figures released by the Kentucky Department of Tourism show that in 2019, Pulaski County had its largest-ever annual increase in visitor spending — up 6.4 percent from the previous year.

Total tourism spending here topped $126 million in 2019 — a $7 million increase with $85 million in direct spending — and is proof that efforts to give visitors more experiences in Somerset-Pulaski County are working, Lake Cumberland Tourism Executive Director Michelle Allen said.

“When you look at the differences between 2018 and 2019, the common denominator is clearly a change in leadership and a commitment to community partnerships that are bringing new opportunities to people visiting Somerset,” Allen said. “Our new downtown festivals combined with a focus on arts and culture and our already outstanding visitor experiences like Somernites Cruise, Haney’s Appledale Farm, Master Musicians Festival and the Mill Springs Battlefield Visitors Center and Museum give visitors more ways to see our community.”

Allen pointed to the creation of the Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) in 2019 and the effort to widen the lens of economic development to encompass quality-of-life initiatives as another example of positive change.

“I am grateful to Somerset Mayor Alan Keck and County Judge Steve Kelley for seeing the need to establish this city-county partnership because we’re now treating tourism as an industry in Pulaski County,” said Allen, who is also a member of the SPEDA board of directors. “We’re now focusing on small business and not just industrial recruitment, we’re constantly looking for ways to improve quality of life and we’re telling people about it.”

Tourism supports thousands of jobs in Pulaski County and saves every household $344 per year in taxes — which is a significant boost to the local economy, SPEDA President and Chris Girdler said.

“When people visit our community, when they stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants and enjoy everything our beautiful Capital of Lake Cumberland has to offer, our residents directly benefit,” Girdler said. “Those are tax dollars we use to improve our community that our residents don’t have to pay. And that is one reason SPEDA is committed to supporting the tourism industry: It means so much to our people and our economy. Our goal is always to make business about people.”

Pulaski County’s increase in spending is 1 percent higher than the state’s (5.4 percent). Pulaski County also leads spending in the Kentucky Shorelines Region, which includes 10 counties in the Lake Cumberland area. The Shorelines region showed an increase over the previous year as well.

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