FRANKFORT, Ky. -- The Bluegrass State is stepping up efforts to
court the group travel market, which represents about 10% of the
The Kentucky Department of Travel had set up initiatives that
include greater participation in trade shows and development of
themed itineraries tied to the state. The newest itinerary is
Country Music and Crafts in Appalachia, designed to promote eastern
Kentucky as a group destination, according to Doris Meador, manager
of group travel marketing for the department.
With the aim of attracting group tour operators, the department
ran a four-night familiarization tour in June and plans call for a
second tour in June 1999. The recent fam tour attracted 30 tour
operators and travel planners. So far, a handful of tour operators
have started programs in Kentucky's eastern region, Meador said,
and more firms are expected to begin featuring the area.
The itinerary focuses on country music history and entertainment
as well as Appalachian heritage. Eastern Kentucky is home to a
stretch of U.S. Highway 23 that has been designated Country Music
Highway because it runs through towns in which country music stars
were born and raised.
"It is a unique tour because of the entertainers that have come
from this region," Meador said.
One of the musicians spotlighted on the program is Loretta Lynn.
The house where Lynn grew up is located in the coal miners town of
Van Lear, and the Country Music and Crafts in Appalachia itinerary
features a tour of the house, given by Lynn's brother, Herman Webb.
Among the other musicians from eastern Kentucky are Crystal Gayle,
who is Loretta Lynn's sister, plus the Judds, Patty Loveless and
The region also features attractions that are ideal stops for
motorcoach itineraries, according to Meador. "There are new
attractions in that region to make it more appealing to the group
tour market than it has been in the past, and the highways have
been improved for easy access," she said.
Among the recent offerings to come on line are:The Mountain Arts Center in Prestonsburg, which showcases
performances by the Kentucky Opry and other music groups.The Paramount Arts Center in Ashland, an Art Deco venue
spotlighting country music entertainment and rock and roll
groups.The Mountain Homeplace in Paintsville, a recreation of a
village at the time Appalachia was settled. Mountain Homeplace is a
working village that features a blacksmith, oxen to plow fields and
a theater that presents a film on the Appalachian history of the
Other highlights of the itinerary include visits to the Renfro
Valley Entertainment Center in Renfro Valley, spotlighting country
music-themed performances; the Kentucky Folk Art Center in Morehead
and historical homes.
Two other areas of the state being promoted to the group travel
market through fam tours are western Kentucky and the Bluegrass
region. The latter has two new major attractions -- the Kentucky
History Center in Frankfort, opening in April, and the Labrot and
Graham historic distillery near Lexington.
Kentucky Department of Travel Development, Phone: (800) 225-TRIP
or (502) 564-4930. Web: www.state.ky.us/tour/tour.htm