Morehead, Rowan County unify tourism efforts
The city of Morehead and Rowan County Fiscal Court are working together to restructure the local tourism commission in the new year, choosing a more unified approach to marketing the community across the state and nation.
Effective December 31, 2019, the Morehead Recreation, Tourism and Convention Commission — which only served the city limits — will dissolve. Rowan County Judge-Executive Harry Clark and Morehead Mayor Laura White-Brown will appoint a new, joint commission effective Jan. 1, 2020.
The commission will operate under the name Morehead-Rowan County Tourism and promote the entire county.
The joint commission’s board will have seven members, and Morehead Tourism Executive Director Joy Brown will lead the new organization. A Certified Kentucky Tourism Professional and member of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association board of directors, Brown has been the executive director of Morehead Tourism for seven years.
Clark said creating a joint tourism commission has been an initiative for both himself and the mayor since taking office, and seeing it come to fruition is an exciting step toward the future.
“This will give us a new approach to promoting what we all value within our community,” Clark said.
"Joint tourism is a great stride in strengthening our community and moving us in a direction of growth for visitors as well as residents,” White-Brown said.
Morehead Tourism Board Chair Keith Kappes expressed gratitude to White-Brown and Clark for their leadership and support of a joint tourism commission, and to those who have helped pave the way for this accomplishment.
“We are forever indebted to former Mayor Brad Collins for his leadership in the city’s decision to build the conference center, which has brought tens of thousands of visitors to our community,” Kappes said. “I also wish to express my gratitude to two of my predecessors as chair of the commission — Waverly Jones and Roger Russell — for their vision of what could be accomplished in promoting local tourism.
“Today, we have the largest and most qualified staff in the history of the tourism commission under the leadership of Joy Brown,” added Kappes.
Brown said her team is thrilled to have the opportunity to market all of Rowan County’s amenities and attractions, so the community can reach a broader audience.
“The start of a new decade and a new era is upon us as we unify tourism for Morehead and Rowan County,” Brown said. “I believe this is a chance for us to market both outdoor recreation and the many other assets we haven't been able to focus on for so many years.”
In addition to completing the $9 million Morehead Conference Center in 2006, Morehead Tourism has had several significant accomplishments in the last two decades, including the designation of Morehead in 2014 as only the third Kentucky Trail Town, the acceptance of management of the Rowan County Arts Center in 2016, the 2017 opening of the Morehead Visitor Center in the historic depot and statewide recognition in 2018 with the Kentucky Economic Engine Award for total tourism economic impact and tourism jobs as a percentage of total jobs in the county.
Tourism spending has steadily risen in Morehead during the last five years, experiencing 2 to 3 percent growth year after year. In 2018, tourism spending totaled $46.3 million, an increase of $1.3 million over the previous year.
Brown stressed that the decision to restructure doesn’t change anything on the surface; it simply expands tourism’s reach to match the geographic borders of the county. The restructuring allows the organization to collect transient room taxes — a tax paid by visitors when booking rooms — throughout Rowan County as opposed to just the city limits. Over time, this will generate more revenue to market the community, create more tourism-related jobs and help Rowan County residents realize a higher tax savings.
“Tourism helps the community by generating revenue that would otherwise be paid by residents through property, occupational or other taxes,” Brown said. “We are excited to begin promoting our entire county while also growing our local economy.”
(provided by Morehead Tourism)