Knox, Whitley and Laurel Counties are among the 41 counties in Southern and Eastern Kentucky included in a $1.15 million federal grant to fund a new regional tourism marketing campaign.

Eastern Kentucky PRIDE has secured the grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to fund the effort to encourage more visitors, not just for a daytrip, but to look at options for a multi-day package in the area now known as “The Kentucky Wildlands.”

“The Kentucky Wildlands appropriately captures the majesty of our Appalachian mountains and the wildlife that can be found throughout our region,” said Congressman Harold “Hal” Rogers, R-Ky., who worked on behalf of PRIDE to champion the effort. “New tourism opportunities are rapidly developing in our counties, like new hiking and biking trails, new water recreation, ziplining, rock climbing, kayaking and more. This new marketing campaign will help get the word out about all of the new exciting activities that await our tourists.”

Tammie Nazario, President and CEO of Eastern Kentucky PRIDE, said over the next two years, the marketing plan will be developed highlighting regional attractions from various points of view whether it is adventure tourism, as a foodie destination, the history that is offered, the natural beauty or a variety of others.

“It is about so much more than just a new logo,” Nazario said.

Corbin Tourism Director Maggy Kriebel said this is a great step forward for the region, as the subject of how to entice visitors to spend more time, and money, in the area is a frequent topic of conversation among tourism directors.

“I’m so glad we are moving in this direction,” Kriebel said.

While the next year will involve putting together the planning committee, developing the Kentucky Wildlands website, and the other aspects of the campaign, Nazario said it would ultimately involve visitors guides, signage and billboards, as well as other media outlets.

Within 13 to 24 months is when the public will see the results,” Nazario said.

Officials estimated that for ever dollar spent on advertising, $151 comes back in visitor spending and more than $15 in state and local revenue. As a result, the campaign has the potential to create $75.5 million in spending across the region.

“For more than 20 years, PRIDE volunteers have done a wonderful job cleaning up our hillsides, lakes and streams. As their environmental work continues, I applaud PRIDE for engaging in tourism-related efforts to let the rest of the world know that we live in one of the most beautiful and adventurous parts of the country,” Rogers said.

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