Since the Ark Encounter opened in July 2016, we’ve been expanding, hiring new staff, and even refurbishing some areas to accommodate the massive numbers of people we’ve been seeing on a daily basis. But apparently we’ve been doing all of this for imaginary people because, according to a reporter—who (to our knowledge) didn’t reach out to anyone from Answers in Genesis, any local businesses, or tourist bureaus, but instead relied on “data” from an anti-Ark activist—very few people are coming!
The reporter claims we’re struggling with attendance (we’re not!; we see thousands daily). In response to this obviously biased hit piece, I wrote the following guest column and have submitted it to three newspapers that carried the terrible article (two have printed my column).
While speaking at our sold-out conference in Ireland, I was sent a Cincinnati Enquirer article (November 2) about the Ark Encounter, our themed attraction in Williamstown. The piece suggested the Ark was struggling with attendance and revenue as it was entering its third year. I just had to rub my eyes. We have been witnessing thousands of people visiting the Ark every day.
You see, attendance for year two concluded July 7, and it actually eclipsed year one. New attractions almost always see a drop in numbers after the excitement of the first year or two wears off. The average theme park or aquarium sees a decline of about 25-30% in attendance after the first year. But I don’t remember seeing blaring headlines in this paper proclaiming those attractions were struggling by their third year.
Local hotels owners, restaurants managers, and tourist bureaus all know of the Ark’s success. The reporter apparently did not talk to owners of tourism-related businesses in Dry Ridge, just five miles from the Ark (Williamstown by comparison lacks hotels and restaurants and so it misses out on most of the economic impact), and other businesses throughout northern Kentucky, like BB Riverboats, that have grown dramatically because of the Ark. Instead, he relied heavily on information spoon-fed him by an anti-Ark activist and ignored the evidence of the Ark’s significant economic impact on the region. It begs the question: what was the underlying motive of the reporter and his editor?
It’s important that readers ignore what many in the media (plus bloggers) have falsely claimed, that 862,000 is the total number of people who actually visited the Ark in its second year. First, that’s an impressive number on the face of it, even though it is not accurate. That 862,000 figure was released by Williamstown as the city reports the amount of safety tax collected from each paid ticket at the Ark. However, it is not a true count of attendance due to a number of factors, including: children under 5 are free and there are many types of tickets, such as lifetime passes (of which there are many thousand passholders), multi-day passes, annual passes, and so on do not require visitors to purchase a ticket at the gate. You can’t accurately project attendance for the third year based on safety-tax numbers, let alone the fact this article was published only three months into the Ark’s third year.
The huge growth of motor coach tours to the Ark, a nationwide TV campaign, and word-of-mouth buzz generated by our excited visitors are prompting more and more people to travel to Northern Kentucky to visit the Ark. AiG’s Ark and Creation Museum have made Kentucky the nation’s leading faith-based tourist destination. Some guests have even dubbed the 510-foot-long Ark “the new wonder of the modern world.”
Because quite a number of people have informed us they couldn’t find hotel rooms on some dates, attendance will increase as more hotels open. We’re happy to report that new hotels in northern Kentucky hotels have recently been built or are under construction, primarily to accommodate our guests. Actually, misinformation spread by the media could be counterproductive for Williamstown, as potential investors could shy away from building much-needed hotels, restaurants, etc.
While there are no public records of the Ark’s true total attendance that a reporter can access, I can confirm that the Creation Museum (opened in 2007) and the Ark Encounter (with a July 2016 launch) have welcomed over six million visitors!
Now, if the Ark is supposedly struggling, how could we build a new $20 million multi-purpose center, seating 2,500 people (opening in a few months), greatly expand our zoo, and start constructing a large children’s playground? Meanwhile, our sister attraction, the 11-year-old Creation Museum, is seeing its best attendance ever.
With up to 1,200 full-time and part-time/seasonal staff members, AiG has had a remarkable economic impact in the region. Yet some anti-Ark activists keep feeding misleading information to the media to suggest that this growing ministry is struggling. I publicly call on the media to conduct responsible and accurate reporting. That does not just mean talking to us, but also interviewing people in local tourism.
Ken Ham CEO, Answers in Genesis and the Ark Encounter
While we sometimes grow weary of the constant attacks on the Ark Encounter, Creation Museum, and Answers in Genesis, we remember the words of our Savior,
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven. (Matthew 5:11–12)
Please help us get the word out about the truth of the Ark Encounter and the booming tourism industry here in Northern Kentucky by sharing this blog on social media. And invite your family and friends to come and join thousands of others daily at the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum—and make plans to be here for our special Christmas events at both attractions. Plan your visit at ArkEncounter.com and CreationMuseum.org .
Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,
This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.