(Editor’s note: This is a weekly series interviewing community leaders to share their thoughts and goals for the community.)
Karen Hackett has been executive director of the Harrodsburg/Mercer County Tourist Commission since 1993 and is a native of Mercer County. She is the fourth generation to live on the family farm in Salvisa. Hackett is involved in numerous local, regional and state tourism organizations and she serves as one of nine statewide members of the Kentucky Department Tourism Marketing Advisory Committee.
“I think there is a slight misconception about the role of the tourist commission in our community,” said Hackett. “We are the destination marketing organization, which serves as the advertising agency for the tourism industry in Mercer County. Our marketing efforts are concentrated out-of-state in order to bring new dollars into the community to impact the local economy.”
“We have so much potential in our city and county,” said Hackett. “Tourism has increased steadily over the last five years, but it’s challenging to increase numbers as we are not located on an interstate and we must be creative in our marketing strategies.”
Hackett said although we may not be situated in a prime location, our community has a competitive edge.
“No other area in the state can claim to be Kentucky’s first settlement. We have an inventory of historic assets that include Old Fort Harrod State Park, Shaker Village, Beaumont Inn and a variety of architectural treasures, as well as an appealing mix of outdoor recreational activities,” said Hackett. “We should all be proud of what we have to showcase and demonstrate local support and pride for our great community.”
Hackett said the most recent economic impact report prepared by the Kentucky Department of Tourism showed significant growth in Mercer County. “The numbers continue to steadily climb and the data reflected tourism visitors spent $98,461 a day in Mercer County in 2017,” said Hackett. “Tourist spending increased by 7.5 percent in 2017.”
The 2018 numbers have not been released, but are expected at any time according to Hackett.
“What we may take for granted, the visitors seek out in order to have a local experience when they travel to our community,” said Hackett. “Our peak travel season is May through October and I would encourage all tourism-related businesses to be mindful of this annual window of opportunity and adjust hours of operation accordingly during this profitable visitation season.”
Hackett said she would like to see the industry develop another attraction to give visitors a new reason to plan a trip to the area.
“All growth in our community is good and the possibilities are endless, but private investors are necessary to accomplish the goal,” said Hackett. “Local residents are our greatest ambassadors. If citizens boast the quality of life and the wonderful things their town has to offer that endorsement would aid to keep tourism in the forefront and the future impact it will have on the local economy.”
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