Leah Koch, director of communications at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari in Santa Claus, Indiana, says the theme park averages about 1 million visitors a year.
“Most of them come from Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois and Missouri,” she said. “But we occasionally have families that travel across the country, and even some who travel from other countries, just to experience our four renowned roller coasters.”
Many of the visitors are within a day’s drive of the theme park.
But the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a campaign last year — and is intensifying it this year — to try to persuade as many of those 1 million guests as possible to spend the night and dine in Owensboro.
After all, the drive is just a little over half an hour.
And visitors to theme parks in places like Orlando, Florida, often travel longer than that to hotels.
“Owensboro is still facing tourism challenges and we have an uphill climb ahead of us,” Mark Calitri, CVB president, said last week. “But we’re recognizing the changes and adapting.”
He said, “One key marketing initiative we have Dave Kirk (director of destination management) focusing on is a collaboration with Holiday World,” he said. “Our hotels are reporting strong numbers of room nights coming from guests visiting the park and we wanted to capitalize on this opportunity.”
Curt Baker is the general manager of Townplace Suites in Gateway Commons — the closest Owensboro hotel to Holiday World.
“Since coming to the region about five years ago,” he said, “I have been immensely impressed with the loyal following that Holiday World has created. I truly came to understand the power combination that blended Holiday World and Owensboro.”
Baker said after he opened the hotel in 2019, “I was overwhelmed by the number of people that were extending their visits from one day to two, as they paired a day at Holiday World with one of the local attractions like the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum, the Owensboro Riverwalk and sports and other events.”
He said, “Holiday World recognized the great partnership and they brought in a virtual reality water ride in November of 2019 to introduce their newest attraction.”
Baker said, “The further development of a two-way relationship between us is an opportunity that can only grow and enhance the experience for those of us on both sides. We are extremely fortunate to be only 20 minutes away from this unique venue and all that it brings to the area.”
The CVB has rented two billboards near Holiday World to encourage people to make the drive.
Calitri said the billboards have 60,000 vehicles a week passing them.
Last year, when the CVB began working on the Holiday World promotion, they called it “Play in Holiday World, Stay in Owensboro.”
Calitri said, “Hotel sales and marketing managers in other cities have even reached out to us after witnessing the success of our Holiday World campaign and commended us on our creative efforts during this difficult time.”
Kirk said last year, “We’re offering cheaper hotel rates to people who have been to or are going to Holiday World. And we’re working with attractions to create a package for distillery tours or museum visits while they’re here.”
He said, “Families are looking at visiting smaller cities with a lot of amenities where they feel safe to get away for the weekend.”
Last week, Holiday World President Matt Eckert said, “This summer has the potential to be our best yet. We’re celebrating 75 years of family fun, and we continue to hear and see positive indicators that our guests can’t wait to get out again. If that weren’t enough, there are tons of families out there who didn’t have the opportunity to experience Cheetah Chase: The World’s First Launched Water Coaster when it opened last year. We can’t wait to introduce them to this thrilling race to the finish.”
Calitri said the season-long marketing campaign collaboration with Holiday World “will utilize multiple platforms, including digital advertising, social media marketing, interviews with theme park influencers and website promotions.”