The following guest column, written by AiG president and CEO Ken Ham, appeared in the Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday, July 2, 2017. Cincinnati, Ohio, is home to this major regional newspaper in the area where both the Creation Museum and Ark Encounter are located.
Restaurants, Hotels Needed for Ark Crowds
Two major attractions in our region have helped show why theme parks are called “attractions” in the first place—they attract visitors. With the recent 10th anniversary of the Creation Museum and the completion of the first year of the Ark Encounter, tourists are pouring into Northern Kentucky from all over the globe. For example, last Saturday we welcomed 7,500 guests to the Ark and 2,500 to the museum. Of these 10,000 visitors in one day, almost all of them were from out of state.
The 510-foot-long Noah’s Ark has been described by many thrilled guests as “the eighth wonder of the modern world.” The Ark’s impact has been felt in another way: wonderful economic benefits for the region. As both the Ark and museum add phases, the economic impact will only get larger. For 2017–2018, Answers in Genesis (owner of both attractions) confidently predicts that the Ark will have even greater attendance than our excellent first year—provided, that is, we see more entrepreneurs building additional hotels to accommodate our visitors.As both the Ark and museum add phases, the economic impact will only get larger.
Interestingly, a state-commissioned study predicted that if the Ark Encounter were a themed attraction featuring our creationist beliefs (and it does), it would draw 325,000 visitors the first year. The Ark reached that figure in fewer than three months.
While tourism-related businesses are thriving in Grant County, especially in the city of Dry Ridge, more tourist facilities are desperately needed to handle the Ark crowds. The lack of hotel rooms limits us to 7,500–8,000 guests visiting the Ark in a day. Tour operators, hotel owners, restaurant managers, and tourism officials have acknowledged the remarkable increase in business region wide, and they give a nod to the Ark and Creation Museum. Williamstown, where the Ark is located, doesn’t yet have the tourist-related services that Dry Ridge has, so it needs more businesses like hotels and restaurants if it hopes to experience the growth that Dry Ridge is now enjoying.
Thankfully, more development is coming to Grant County. The mayor of Dry Ridge tells us that three new hotels and two restaurants are about to be built because of the Ark. Even during the winter months when Ark attendance is not as huge (which is the case for almost any attraction), the Grant County Tourism Development office reported that hotel occupancy in the county was an amazing 97%! The office acknowledged it was almost all due to the Ark’s presence.
Meanwhile, guests to the Creation Museum are visiting at such a record rate that we are adding a parking lot to accommodate 1,200 more vehicles. The museum is experiencing its best year for attendance.
At the Ark, as many as 40 motor coach tour buses arrive from several states on a given day.
As word of mouth spreads, as we add more attractions next to the ship and the museum, and as additional hotels are built, attendance at both attractions will only increase.
Correspondingly, the economic impact for the region will grow. Already, several hundred jobs have been created at our attractions, and tourism-related businesses have added hundreds of employees. In total right now, AiG employs over 950 people (including seasonal workers during peak tourist periods).We are excited about the enormous economic impact our themed attractions are having in the region.
We are excited about the enormous economic impact our themed attractions are having in the region. As the attractions expand over the next 10 years, the total economic influence of both facilities should be on the order of billions (not millions) of dollars, with thousands of Ark and museum-related jobs added in the region.
AiG loves being in this area and is aggressively promoting the entire region as a vacation destination, encouraging our guests to stay for several days and enjoy the many other wonderful attractions in the region.
Thank you, Kentucky and Cincinnati, for extending a warm welcome to our national and international guests!