ROWAN COUNTY, Ky. (FOX 56) — In 2022, Kentucky had a big year for tourism, generating nearly $13 billion for the state’s economy and creating more than 91,000 jobs.

According to the state’s Department of Tourism, more than $930 million was generated in state and local taxes because of tourism in 2022, equaling roughly $536 in tax savings for every Kentucky household.

In Rowan County, the community’s tourism industry brought in more than $53 million in 2022, a record for the county. It topped the previous record of roughly $51 million set in 2021.

In a 15-county region among counties in Appalachia, Rowan County came in third in total economic impact for tourism in 2022.

Rowan County Judge Executive Harry Clark said it’s no surprise the county is continuing to build on its growth, with attractions like Cave Run Lake and the Daniel Boone National Forest for visitors to take advantage of.


“We thought we were kind of behind because, you know, a lot of other people were getting, you know, car manufacturing plants and all these other things,” Clark explained. “We had realized what we really had was our natural beauty, and we had it right here. We just didn’t take advantage of it. So, I think, probably in our past 10 to 12 years, we’ve really recognized, ‘Hey, you know, this is what we’ve got to work with.'”

Clark, a native of Rowan County, said it’s special for him to see the community he grew up in get the recognition it has over the last few years. He said there is more to Morehead than meets the eye, and that trickles down to the rest of the county.

With those natural sites mentioned above, a growing Morehead State University, and a number of other attractions, Clark said the future is bright.

FOX 56 told you recently about a new bourbon distillery that’s coming to the county. Eastern Light Distilling will open the door to a number of bourbon lovers who may not have previously visited the region.

Clark and other county leaders recognize the importance of new business but say that continued growth starts with the people who call Rowan County home.

“A lot of these businesses are mom-and-pop owned,” Clark said. “They’re privately owned. So, what we want to do is create the environment so our kids got an excellent university to go to, and when they finish university, if they choose to go away somewhere else, that’s fine if they choose to. If they have to go somewhere else, we’re not doing our job. So, by promoting tourism, doing all this industry, creating these jobs, being successful, this gives all of our kids and grandkids, in my case, an opportunity to stay here.”

To read more about the effect tourism had on the state’s economy in 2022, you can find that information here.