Federal-State Tourism Summit – September 4, 2002

Thank you Secretary Latta.  Tourism is critical to Kentucky’s economy…in fact it is the state’s third largest industry…and in 2001 alone, had an $8.7 billion impact on our economy, generating $906.4 million in state and local taxes.  We have been extremely fortunate during the past six years to have the caliber of individuals like Secretary Latta and Bob Stewart to lead our tourism efforts.  Due to their leadership we have been able to establish partnerships between Tourism and other governmental agencies that play a key role in providing our state with the resources needed to build a healthy tourism climate. They have successfully forged some partnerships that ten years or so ago would have seemed impossible…partnerships that include the Department of Highways.  As most of you know, transportation plays a very significant role in tourism.  Their efforts have resulted in a streamlined cooperative approach to approving tourism highway signage, a customer driven state map, and a new driver’s license and license plate that establishes our new tourism theme…Kentucky…it’s that friendly…as a brand.   We have also worked together with our state lawmakers to establish legislation, such as the Tourism Development Act of 1996, which provides incentive dollars to tourism attractions based on sales tax revenue.

I would like to commend the Southeast Tourism Society for hosting a conference that embraces the fact that any future successful endeavor, whether it be economic development, smart growth, tourism, or education…depends on the ability of citizens to come together to work towards a common good.  In today’s fast paced, technology driven world, everything is interrelated…no entity can afford to operate in isolation if it wants to survive.  Countries must understand that they are a part of a global economy…states must understand they are more successful if they view themselves as part of a regional economy irregardless of state boundaries…and communities must understand that county borders are virtually nonexistent when it comes to tourism and economic development. 

Every time the subject of tourism is broached…no matter whether it is a legislative issue or a business issues…I am reminded of the line comedian Rodney Dangerfield used over and over again.   I get no respect!   Unfortunately when it comes to the tourism industry…the business and legislative community often fail to give it the respect it deserves…especially considering the fact that tourism represents either the first, second or third largest industry in every single state that is represented at this summit.  Nowhere is this fact better demonstrated than in the dollars most state legislatures appropriate to market their state’s tourism product.  Generally speaking, the majority spend an abysmal amount of money to promote what is one of their largest industries. 

However, I do believe that the environment is changing.  The tourism industry is on the brink of being discovered by public officials and other state leaders as being a critical component to the future economic success of their communities and states.  They are beginning to realize that tourism is integrally linked to every ingredient in the economic development formula…ingredients such as providing the quality of life that the industries of the New Economy require for their employees…as well as providing high paying, quality jobs in the Tourism sector itself.

Once again I commend the efforts of the Southeast Tourism Society for conducting this historic conference designed to initiate an ongoing dialogue between all stakeholders in the tourism industry.  We all know that there is strength in numbers.  This summit is all about numbers…It’s designed to strengthen tourism’s role in the southeast region of this country by uniting the number of both public and private entities who have a vested interest in this industry.  Every individual in this room…and every stakeholder in the industry…have the potential to significantly impact the economies of every state in this region by joining forces to support the smart growth and development of public recreational areas.

As Chair of the National Governor’s Association, I pledge to carry the tourism message to other Governors and to help champion key areas of public policy critical to your industry.  One area that I hope to have significant impact on will be the reauthorization of TEA-21.  During the next year, the National Governor’s Association will be working with our federal partners to ensure that we develop creative and effective solutions to some of our outdated highway problems …and to continue to provide funding for unique transportation projects that directly impact the tourism industry.  I also commit to you that I will do everything in my power to raise the awareness level among Governors and key policy makers of tourism’s importance to a state’s economy.  I will diligently work to include the industry in key policymaking arenas were you have been traditionally left out.  If the tourism industry is going to play a major role in our region’s economy it is imperative that they be invited to the policy making table!

Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this historic Summit…I hope you have a very productive meeting that lays the groundwork for the development of a collaborative partnership between all of the industry’s stakeholders.

I also hope that you will find some time during your stay to take advantage of the “friendliness” of our beautiful state.  I know Ann and Bob have some dynamic activities planned that feature some of Kentucky’s best tourism assets.