DRAFFENVILLE – Tourism in Marshall County is not merely related to Kentucky Lake. Kentucky Lake is the be-all, end-all of Marshall County tourism.
That was the message of tourism commission director Randy Newcomb, speaker for the monthly Chamber of Commerce breakfast meeting this morning.
“We would not have a tourism industry if not for Kentucky Lake,” he said.
The industry – attracting, accommodating, hosting and merchandizing to out-of-area visitors – employs some 2,000 people, Newcomb said, making up the second-largest chunk of the county’s economy.
The lake, one result of the expansive Tennessee Valley Authority project of the 1930s and ‘40s, began filling to its present size – more than 180 miles in length, extending deep into Tennessee – in 1944 with completion of Kentucky Dam.
The primary business that has grown on and around Kentucky Lake since then revolves around recreation – fishing, boating, camping and other otudoor activities.
Peripheral attractions such as golf courses, the Kentucky Opry music house, antique shops and various family recreation venues offering miniature golf, go-kart rides, souvenirs and such are sprinkled throughout the county.
But few if any of those would exist if not for the lake’s attraction of a non-local audience – and they make up a limited assortment of options, compared to vacation destinations such as the Orlando, Fla., metropolitan area.
“Let’s face it,” Newcomb said. “We don’t have everything everybody wants. Until we become Disney World, let’s be honest – we’re going to have to rely on the region.”
Newcomb says he routinely directs visitors to attractions outside the county, such as Mammoth Cave, while they are here for some other reason related to Kentucky Lake. Newcomb pointed out that the visitors are staying here and purchasing various products and services supplied by Marshall County providers, and it’s a win-win situation to make that visit as rewarding as it can be.
Not only that, Newcomb said, many visitors are oblivious to the fact they are in Marshall County while they are contributing to the county’s tourism industry income.
He told chamber members that his department has changed its name and is branding itself “Kentucky Lake.”
“When I would answer the phone [by saying] ‘Marshall County Tourism,’ I would get one of two responses,” Newcomb said.”They’d say, ‘Oh – I thought I was calling Kentucky Lake’ or, ‘Hi, Marsha.’”
Marshall County Tourism is now Kentucky Lake.org.
“People in Calloway County [which also borders the lake] may not like it,” Newcomb said. “I don’t care.”
Nor does if care that many other entities market themselves by association with the name of the lake. That’s just more exposure for the brand Newcomb is trying to promote.
“If someone else places an ad and identifies [the endeavor] as ‘Kentucky Lake,’ my site comes up” on an Internet search, he said.
“We will guide [tourists] wherever they want to go,” he said. “We just try to concentrate on the north end of the 186-mile lake.”