April 5, 2006 | By: Laura Skillman

Vacation stories are something people love to share and their experiences can mean the difference on whether or not a friend will visit that same location.

Tourism is a $26 million industry in Lyon County so travelers who return again and again and encourage their friends to visit are vital to the local economy. To ensure repeat business, teens employed or hoping to be employed by local companies participated in a daylong hospitality training.

The program, sponsored by the Lyon County office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and the Lyon County Joint Tourism Commission, focused on a range of topics, including communications, manners, giving directions and handling difficult customers.

“So much of our county’s economy is tourism driven, and we are always seeing examples of where we can improve,” said Laura Wilson, Lyon County Extension Agent for family and consumer sciences. “Part of it also comes from when my husband observed a customer at a fast food restaurant bring a sandwich to the counter and throw it at the little female employee because of the way the sandwich was dressed. That’s why we have a segment on what you don’t have to put up with. We want our kids to be hospitable, but they don’t have to put up with that.”

To help kick off the activities, Eddie Spraggs, Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s regional representative for west Kentucky, outlined tourism’s impact on the county and region. In 2004, more than $26 million in tourism dollars were spent in Lyon County, he said. While in the state’s western lakes and rivers region, $529.5 million was spent in 2004 with 7,500 people employed in tourism for a payroll of nearly $184 million.

Wilson said keeping those tourist dollars in the community is important because each dollar spent rolls over seven times in the local economy.

“We know that if someone comes to the county and is treated very hospitably, very pleasantly, the chances of them coming back are going to be greater; the chances of them telling their friends about Lyon County is going to be greater,” she said. “And, by the same token, we know that if they had a bad experience they are also going to share that with their friends and they are not going to come back. We see this as a win-win situation and one that can impact our economy for years to come.

Many of the 44 students attending the hospitality training are already working part-time, while others are hoping to land their first job this summer. A part of the program also gave them some tips for getting a summer job. Many of the students were recruited to the training by Lyon County teacher Vonda Freeman, Wilson said.

The training program doesn’t mean they don’t want the teens to go on to college and have a more advanced career, Wilson said. But the part-time jobs are good jobs for them now, and they may decide for themselves that the tourism industry is where they’d like to spend their careers.

The Extension office will keep a list of teens who attended the program on file should prospective employers want to check to see if they have attended, said Wanda Paris, Lyon County Extension agent for 4-H youth development. The local Chamber of Commerce has been promoting the workshop to businesses in the community, she said.

“We’ve had a lot of people pitch in to help today,” Paris said.



Laura Wilson and Wanda Paris, (270) 388-2341