Members of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau got to spend “quality time” with eight bus tour operators from seven states and Canada on Friday.
And Dave Kirk, the CVB’s destination management director, said he’s optimistic that the visit will result in an increase of visitors to the city next year.
“They’ve already booked their tours for this year,” he said. “But I expect something in 2020.”
One of the tour operators already runs tours to Paducah, Bowling Green and Louisville, Kirk said.
The CVB has created a slogan — “Quilts, Cars and Guitars” — to promote tours to visit Paducah, Bowling Green and Owensboro.
“The more reasons we can give them to come to western Kentucky, the better for all of us,” Kirk said.
He said the tour operators were late getting to Owensboro on Friday, and visits to the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art and Smothers Park had to be cut.
But, Kirk said, they stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Owensboro Waterfront next to Smothers Park, and the bus taking them back to Louisville drove past it on Saturday morning.
“They loved O.Z. Tyler Distillery,” he said. “Not a lot of people get to meet a master distiller. But Jacob Call took time to visit with them and sign bottles of bourbon for them.”
At Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn, Ken Bosley, one of the owners, talked to the group about the history of the restaurant and western Kentucky barbecue, Kirk said.
And they tasted mutton — many for the first time, he said.
At the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, Kirk said, the group saw a performance by Graves Bloodline, a band that includes several members of the family of the late Burkett Howard Graves, the man who introduced the dobro to bluegrass music.
“They played bluegrass, rock and country,” he said.
After the performance, Chris Joslin, the Hall of Fame’s executive director, joined the group to play various instruments in the Hall of Fame.
Kirk said the tour operators liked having the Hampton Inn next door to the Hall of Fame.
“We got to spend five hours with them,” he said. “We’ll customize itineraries for them. They’re looking for smaller cities with lots to do. And we fit that bill.”
Mark Calitri, CVB president, said earlier that the idea was to “introduce them to Owensboro and put our community on their road map. These tour operators, if impressed, will book future bus group trips to visit Owensboro.”
He said, “Bus groups continue to be a profitable segment of business for most cities across the country.”
Friday’s group included American Tour Guide Association and Mirage Tours, both of New York; Better Business Connection, Virginia; Eastside Transportation Services, South Carolina; Sarah Qey Travel, Texas; Heritage Tours, Kansas; Niagara Bound Tours, Ontario, Canada; BJC Travel, Illinois; and Destinations Travel and Tours, Ohio.