MURRAY — Visitors to Murray and Calloway County are spending more money while they are here, according to a release from the Murray Convention and Visitors Bureau on Monday.
According to the release, visitor spending increased in the city of Murray by 6.5% since 2017, according to a study from Tourism Economics, the research firm hired by the Kentucky Department of Tourism. The release said the tourism industry in Murray supported 715 jobs in 2018, and that overall spending for the entire commonwealth was up 3.3%.
While Calloway County saw growth of 6.5%, neighboring counties of Graves, Marshall and McCracken saw a decrease in tourism growth. CVB Executive Director Erin Carrico attributed Murray’s growth in tourism to work put in at the CVB and the draw of Murray State University.
“I think Murray as a whole is very attractive, not only to visitors but to business industries, and with that comes an increase in visitor stays,” Carrico said. “Also, our university is on a really strong path right now. We have very successful athletic programs on top of very strong academic programs, and several of those academic colleges hosted large conferences.”
Carrico said many of the events and conferences hosted through Murray State draw a good number of visitors to the community. She also said the work put in by the CVB to direct those visitors to destinations in the community is another aspect of the growth seen since 2017.
“We as the CVB, in comparison to other CVBs around us, have very strong, large social media followers and members,” she said. “So our interactions and our online promotions reach a little farther than those in Marshall County or Paducah.”
Carrico said the CVB wanted to keep the momentum of growth, and mentioned some ways her office will be working to meet those aims.
“Something that we have taken on in the past year is we have had social influencers come in and do a lot of online writing that is not done by us but by a third party,” Carrico said. “We are actually conducting our own research in conjunction with a national research company right now. Based on the past year’s numbers, we are trying to get a better idea of where our tourists are going while they are here.”
Carrico said the research they are getting ready to work on over the next few months will look at a 12-month digital pattern for visitors.
“We are going to see where they are going, what they are doing while they are here and how long they are staying,” Carrico said. “We will be getting that information in the next six months or so and that will give us a better road map of where we are going.”
The CVB release said the total economic impact of the tourism industry in Calloway County hit $73.17 million. That dollar figure includes the monetary impact of direct spending, labor income, and state and local taxes collected — not direct dollars collected by the CVB. Carrico also noted that that economic impact is not just limited to the city of Murray, but all tourism destinations within the county, including those near Kentucky Lake.
“Visitors touch every part of the community while they are here,” Carrico said in the release. “These numbers include everything from a hotel stay to the cup of local coffee purchased for breakfast.”
Not all college communities in the state enjoyed the same measure of tourist growth, though some did. Warren County, host to Western Kentucky University, saw a decrease in tourism spending by 2.2%. Boyle County, host to Centre College, grew by 3.5%, falling in line with the overall state increase.