OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — Owensboro's tourism economy took a pounding after its largest hotel, the Executive Inn Rivermont, closed in 2008 as the national economy started to falter, but now things are looking better.
The Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau, which is funded primarily by a hotel room tax, brought in $587,567 at the end of this fiscal year — more than the $512,000 budgeted.
The Messenger-Inquirer (http://bit.ly/SvseQi) cited records from the visitors' bureau in reporting that the agency brought in $417,830 in 2007-08, $409,884 in 2008-09 and $365,766 in 2009-10.
CVB Director Karen Miller says she only expects it to get better in coming years. She says the city's new convention center as well as two new hotels should be open by 2014.
"In 2014, we'll have more hotel rooms," Miller said. "We'll change our marketing strategy and go after the larger tournaments again. We've been going after smaller tournaments because we don't have enough rooms for the larger ones, and I'm not interested in filling Evansville hotels."
The city has other things going for it as well.
Smothers Park Since has reopened after a $68 million renovation and is drawing crowds into downtown — people who are likely to shop and eat.
"Smothers Park will be crowded no matter what's going on in town," Miller said. "It gives people more things to do while they're in town and another reason to come to Owensboro. People like to come to Owensboro. They just need reasons."
In addition, the International Bluegrass Music Association named the International Bluegrass Music Museum's ROMP: Bluegrass Roots & Branches Festival "event of the year" in 2012.
Miller said the prestigious honor "is sure to draw even more folks than last year."
She said there are several annual events, such as the International Bar-B-Q Festival, International Mystery Writers' Festival and all sorts of sporting events, that are expected to grow, and the CVB plans to help expand offerings.
"We will continue to work with Bourbon Country, the Bourbon Society, The Miller House — our only bourbon bar — and the Bourbon Festival to increase interest and visitation to our area," Miller said. "I hope that someday soon Glenmore (Distilleries) will be set up for tours. I know they have an interest in doing that."
She says CVB staff members are exploring different possibilities to bring groups to the area.
"The CVB staff and board are excited about all the new activities in our downtown area and know that enthusiasm is contagious," she said. "There is a positive energy in the air about the future of tourism in Owensboro with the building of the convention center, two new hotels and the increase in retail and restaurants in the downtown area."
Information from: Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, http://www.messenger-inquirer.com