Come for the bourbon, stay for Lawrenceburg

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Tourism Commission focuses on Bourbon Trail sponsorship to lure tourists

By Meaghan Downs

Kim Marks of Louisville is a Kentucky Bourbon Trail veteran.
He estimated he’s completed the entire trail — currently at seven bourbon distilleries — about 25 times.
He’s been to Wild Turkey Distillery about four times this year alone, he said.
“I love bourbon,” Kim said, standing in the Wild Turkey parking lot last Saturday with his basset hound, Beauregard Duke Barks, in tow. “[Distilleries] teach me new things.”
On Saturday Marks and Laura Epperson of Washington state were visiting Wild Turkey to take the dog’s photo by the Wild Turkey statue outside the distillery’s visitor center, and to purchase the distillery’s gourmet bourbon sauce.
But they’d be back to Lawrenceburg for distillery tours as soon as maybe the following weekend, Marks said.
Anderson County Tourism Commission chairman Magen Hoskins said the focus for tourism should be on Bourbon Trail participants, getting those tourists to go off the bourbon-beaten path to other Lawrenceburg attractions like wineries or restaurants.  
“That is our main focus, yes,” Hoskins said of the Bourbon Trail, “of course, we promote and support all of our attractions. We feel [bourbon is] what’s really bringing people in.”
The tourism commission recently paid $5,000 for the year to become one of the official sponsors of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, Hoskins said.  
As an “official sponsor,” the Anderson County Tourism Commission would receive rotating ad space on the Bourbon Trail website to highlight the county and the distilleries; the Kentucky Bourbon Trail would mention Anderson County on promotional materials, on its iPhone app and in its e-mail blasts; and the Anderson County Tourism Commission would be mentioned on any collateral the Kentucky Bourbon Trail organizers produce, Hoskins said.  
Created in 1999, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail currently features Four Roses and Wild Turkey Distilleries in Lawrenceburg, Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Jim Beam in Clermont, Maker’s Mark in Loretto, Town Branch in Lexington and Woodford Reserve in Versailles. Tourists who visit all seven distilleries and prove it by showing seven stamps in their Bourbon Trail “passport” receive a free T-shirt.
Marks and Epperson were both wearing last year’s Bourbon Trail T-shirt during their brief Saturday stop at Wild Turkey.
Scaling back on print advertising in magazines in the Cincinnati and Indiana area, the Anderson County Tourism Commission needed to “go with what works,” Hoskins said.
 “We know that people are coming to Lawrenceburg, and once they get here, we have so much to offer,” Hoskins said of Kentucky Bourbon Trail traffic.  
Hoskins, who works full-time as the general manager at the Lawrenceburg Best Western hotel, said most of the hotel’s heightened leisure traffic in the fall and summer is because of the Bourbon Trail.
According to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail’s website, more than 500,000 people visited Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries in 2012.
Local people aren’t seeing tourism advertising because that’s not where the commission wants to advertise to promote Anderson County, she said.
Tourism is about bringing new people in, Hoskins said, and that’s where the commission’s time and money should be spent.
“Sometimes it’s hard for individual citizens to gauge what tourism is actually doing,” Hoskins said.
A paid tourism director, who would oversee the paperwork involved with the Bourbon Trail sponsorship, should help tourism commission members complete projects more quickly, she said.
The tourism commission board has discussed responsibilities and salary for the new director, but has not finalized what the director’s duties will be or how much he or she would be paid, according to Hoskins.   
“The director position is important to see what direction we’re going in,” Hoskins said, adding she believes the position will be advertised and filled within the next month.
Volunteer members of the Anderson County Tourism Commission are chairman Magen Hoskins of Best Western, Katrina Egbert of Wild Turkey Distillery, Jackson Horton of the Lawrenceburg restaurant Heavens to Betsy!, Todd Hyatt of Best Western, John Rhea of Four Roses Distillery, Pam Rice of the Anderson County Chamber of Commerce, and David Montgomery of Commonwealth Threads, newly appointed by Judge-Executive John Wayne Conway.
The tourism commission voted to meet every other month during a commission meeting in August 2012, according to the tourism commission’s meeting minutes.


Tourism board plans to hire paid director
According to Tourism Commission Chair Magen Hoskins, the Anderson County Tourism Commission has been discussing the job description and salary compensation for a paid tourism director.
“Especially with the new sponsorship, we’re going to have a lot going on,” Hoskins said.
According to Hoskins, the commission has not yet voted on a final job description or salary for a potential tourism director, but held “an informal, working meeting to discuss how to move forward with the director position” two weeks ago.  
The Tourism Commission — which is funded by the hotel tax with budgetary oversight from the Anderson County fiscal court — would be paying for the director’s salary from its total $50,000 in funds, including additional surplus from last year.
The commission has not had a tourism director since 2011, according to Hoskins.
“We made that decision mainly because we’re all volunteers, we don’t have a paid position,” she said. “We felt like the projects we were taking on were taking a little too long to complete.”