Despite the economic downturn, tourism remains big business in the region and is an important potential path for Central Appalachia's economic future. A recent analysis by Certec, Inc. for Kentucky found that the economic impact of tourism in the state amounted to $10.8 billion in 2009, as outlined in a press release by the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. The impact figures are based on such things as tourist spending at attractions, overnight hotel stays, campgrounds, tax data, attendance figures and airline business.
Of particular interest is the fact that tourism in mostly rural areas of the state saw gains, while the tourism impact in more urban portions of the state declined. Tourism develpment is tricky because it can often lead to low wages and seasonal jobs; negative environmental and quality of life impacts; and the commercialization of local culture. But Central Appalachia's stunning forested mountains and rich cultural traditions are important assets with tourism potential. With good, careful planning, communities can take advantage of those opportunities in ways that are beneficial and sustainable.