Using motorsport tourism to boost an economy

J.A.
By J.A. Ackley
Aug 4, 2022 | SCCA, Hill Climb, Pine Mountain, Appalachian HillClimb Series, Backroads of Appalachia, Pine Mountain HillClimb, Appalachia | Posted in Features | From the Oct. 2022 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: Perry Bennett

The collapse of the coal industry decimated the Appalachian region, especially communities in eastern Kentucky. If you didn’t mine coal, you worked in an industry that supported those who did.

As the primary driver of the economy faded, those who could leave, left. In its wake, problems entered. Poverty. Drugs. Crime.

However, a contingent of proud Kentuckians seeks to turn around the …

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Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
8/3/22 9:52 a.m.

Polish Mountain Hillclimb is a somewhat similar story, I was buddies with the group that got that going again in 2007 in Western Maryland. It required a state senator working with them to change some laws, but raises a lot of money for local charaties and one of the guys behind the effort runs a PR/Tourism firm.. The calculated economic impact is pretty large for rural communities for events like these.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
8/3/22 10:26 a.m.

In reply to J.A. Ackley :

What about some public road races?  Like the Millie Miliglia  Italy ran? Or Targa Florio     Some City to city style racing.  Not overly sanitized.  Maybe for completely stock SUV's?  A  long stretch where the powerful ones  have to tip toe  to reach the next refilling station?  Giving the more fuel efficient a chance?  
                
     America suffers from tourism compared to the rest of the world. Greatly, l most entirely due to guns. Foreigners see nightly evidence of gun deaths and refuse to visit out of fear.   That's hundreds of billions of American dollars spent overseas with very little to show for it coming back.  
   No I'm not anti gun, I've owned them,  I approve of them in proper  hands,  safely stored to prevent theft. 
  Now how to we present that in a way that tourists will start coming to America?   
  I don't know, nor do I want to turn this into a political discussion. I'm simply pointing out what we need to overcome.  
   We know the tourism industry depends on happy smiling people to spread the word. 
Auto racing does that.    
     

CrustyRedXpress
CrustyRedXpress GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/3/22 11:42 a.m.

I fell in love with cars because I grew up in Appalachia.

The roads really are that good, the towns are cute, and there is a thriving car culture there. 

Good for these groups for tying into all three things!

Asphalt_Gundam
Asphalt_Gundam Reader
8/3/22 12:03 p.m.

Depends on where you live frenchyd. Up here its so thick with tourists from MAY-October that traffic becomes so bad you need a stop light just to cross the hwy. Used to be just a Fri-Sunday problem but now its all week.

This weekend is the "Festival of Sail"....they expect 50-60K people to be in a town of 3,700 which is why I and many locals with be nowhere near town for the weekend. US tourism is far from "suffering" and there are certainly plenty of people that pass through town speaking other languages.

Motorsport related stuff would be awesome to have around here. It'll never happen despite the large enthusiast community. Any attempt at such would immediately be stopped by the trees/lake/canoe/I moved up here because I love it but now I want to change it to be like the cities...type people.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
8/3/22 12:04 p.m.

As someone who was born in Middlesboro, Kentucky (a stone's throw away from Pine Mountain Resort Park and Pineville), I can confirm the roads there are really nice to drive on. In general, it's just great to see good things coming to that part of the country.

My family didn't live there long enough for me to have a lot of memories from there, but I've been back a handful of times on travels.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
8/3/22 12:33 p.m.
Asphalt_Gundam said:

Depends on where you live frenchyd. Up here its so thick with tourists from MAY-October that traffic becomes so bad you need a stop light just to cross the hwy. Used to be just a Fri-Sunday problem but now its all week.

This weekend is the "Festival of Sail"....they expect 50-60K people to be in a town of 3,700 which is why I and many locals with be nowhere near town for the weekend. US tourism is far from "suffering" and there are certainly plenty of people that pass through town speaking other languages.

Motorsport related stuff would be awesome to have around here. It'll never happen despite the large enthusiast community. Any attempt at such would immediately be stopped by the trees/lake/canoe/I moved up here because I love it but now I want to change it to be like the cities...type people.

Have you spent any time in August in Europe?   That's tourism.  People from all over the globe spending money like drunken sailors. Crowding the streets and highways  with tour buses, trains packed with every seat taken. A steady stream of planes landing at local airports.  
     Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes ( actually 15,000+ )  but often resorts are 1/2 full or less  short lines at amusement rides and no foreigners. 
  Americans  along with tourists from all over the globe will go over and look at old churches, graveyards,  ride almost anything that floats up and down rivers and canals  you those place here in America get a few Americans and almost no Global tourists.  

friedgreencorrado
friedgreencorrado UltimaDork
8/3/22 12:38 p.m.

I still recall the first time I went to the SCCA hillclimb in Robbinsville. Even the small stores were selling race gas for sportbike folks headed north to the Dragon. Motorsport tourism is real.

z31maniac
z31maniac MegaDork
8/3/22 12:45 p.m.
Asphalt_Gundam said:

Depends on where you live frenchyd. Up here its so thick with tourists from MAY-October that traffic becomes so bad you need a stop light just to cross the hwy. Used to be just a Fri-Sunday problem but now its all week.

This weekend is the "Festival of Sail"....they expect 50-60K people to be in a town of 3,700 which is why I and many locals with be nowhere near town for the weekend. US tourism is far from "suffering" and there are certainly plenty of people that pass through town speaking other languages.

Motorsport related stuff would be awesome to have around here. It'll never happen despite the large enthusiast community. Any attempt at such would immediately be stopped by the trees/lake/canoe/I moved up here because I love it but now I want to change it to be like the cities...type people.

I was trying to find numbers. Apparently tourism in the US is a $1.1 TRILLION per year industry. But I was having trouble finding a distinction between domestic tourism, loading up the family truckster to go to Walley World, vs international tourism. 

Asphalt_Gundam
Asphalt_Gundam Reader
8/3/22 1:09 p.m.

In reply to z31maniac :

I wouldn't know hard numbers either but what I posted about my town was in the paper last Friday. I've also lived most of my life along the North Shore of lake superior and it gets worse (more tourists that is) every year. To see east coast, west coast, and Alaska license plates plus all the Canadian ones is normal.

frenchyd : I'm well aware of how many lakes are in MN...I live in Two Harbors, MN.

I don't know what you expect but America can't just "poof" thousands of years of history into existence all over the country (which is what I expect a large portion of the draw is in Eurpoe). Not to mention in case you haven't noticed the USA is so much bigger than all of Europe so tourist "destinations" if you will are much more spread out. As far as populations doing tourist things go.... The population of Paris and its surrounding metro areas is Double (10.5 million) that of the entire state of MN (5.6 Million), so yeah there's a lot of people over there.

It makes me really glad to see this.  My ancestral home is a small town in Central PA that has done very poorly since the steel industry left in the 1980's.  The town has an embarrassment of riches in terms of outdoor recreation and great mountain roads.  I fantasize about someday helping people (i.e. people with money) discover it.

Re: foreign tourists, go visit a national park in the summer.  The big ones are overrun with people and I'd guess at least 50% are from overseas.  Not to diminish the gun issue though; my current home just cancelled a big music festival that has been running for almost 30 years because our state recently passed open carry laws in public places and the organizers can no longer prevent people from carrying guns into the festival because it's in a city park.  This is why we can't have nice things...

 

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
8/3/22 1:33 p.m.

Isle of Mann. An entire Island revolving around a motorcycle race with enthusiasts from all over the world.

bmw88rider
bmw88rider GRM+ Memberand UberDork
8/3/22 1:51 p.m.

In a small part the Adventure bike community is doing a lot of this too. Great to see resources like the Backcountry Discovery route team and other organizations like the different Adventure trails doing this as well. 

There are 3 high profile Open Road races out there. 1 of which I really want to run next year which is about 4 hours from my house. I mean why else would you go to Arnold, Nebraska other than the sand hills open road race? But they get a crowd there every summer for that. 

On the Bicycle side, The Ragbrai rolling circus streams across the back roads of Iowa with over a thousand bicyclists running the route. 

There is a lot of this in America and I think it's great. Enjoying the world on wheels weather it be 2 or 4 is always a great thing. I'm just glad there is so many options out there to enjoy. 

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
8/3/22 2:47 p.m.
ShinnyGroove (Forum Supporter) said:

It makes me really glad to see this.  My ancestral home is a small town in Central PA that has done very poorly since the steel industry left in the 1980's.  The town has an embarrassment of riches in terms of outdoor recreation and great mountain roads.  I fantasize about someday helping people (i.e. people with money) discover it.

Re: foreign tourists, go visit a national park in the summer.  The big ones are overrun with people and I'd guess at least 50% are from overseas.  Not to diminish the gun issue though; my current home just cancelled a big music festival that has been running for almost 30 years because our state recently passed open carry laws in public places and the organizers can no longer prevent people from carrying guns into the festival because it's in a city park.  This is why we can't have nice things...

 

It's been several years since I visited the big national parks.   However back then  it was dominated by Americans.   Has it really changed that much?  
    I know the Disney's aren't reporting anywhere near a 50% foreign visit rate. 
  Mall of America is about 12% foreign. The Wisconsin Dells seems to be predominately American. 

GameboyRMH
GameboyRMH GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
8/3/22 2:59 p.m.
Appleseed said:

Isle of Mann. An entire Island revolving around a motorcycle race with enthusiasts from all over the world.

Maybe too much, was just reading some articles about how they've become rather dependent on it and the events not running in the thick of the pandemic hurt the entire island's economy badly. Plus a lot of the Brit population that's moved onto the island and now makes up a significant chunk of the population sees it as a barbaric bloodsport that the government should not be funding. This year was the last year of Mad Sunday due to rule changes for next year, so that's one more item no longer available on the bucket list...

j_tso
j_tso GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
8/3/22 3:03 p.m.

In reply to Appleseed :

Timely comment, today Speedhunters published a photo log of a lap of the TT race.

te72
te72 HalfDork
8/3/22 4:03 p.m.

Tourism is alive and well in the area I live in, we're on the highway to one of the main gateways into Yellowstone, you lose track of how many plates from out of state you see during the summer.

 

In regards to America and tourism from the rest of the world, I see plenty of folks every year from outside our borders, but we have to consider American foreign policy as a much larger contribution to whatever perception people have of us, than domestic policy. We have over 800 foreign bases and have occupied and meddled in the affairs of how many other countries in the last oh, 130 or so years? Small wonder that we have an unfortunate reputation abroad.

 

All that said, I'd love to visit this Kentucky region, sounds like a blast! Nearly across the country for me though...

Apexcarver
Apexcarver UltimaDork
8/3/22 4:15 p.m.

Its hard to balance american tourism vs rest of the world due to our size and proximity.  Inter-eurpopean tourism is geographically more akin to our inter-state tourism. 

 

I probably see more international tourists than many on here being proximate to DC though.  When I visited NYC a few years back, it was HEAVILY international tourism that I saw.  I see a healthy amount of asian tourists locally.   Brits, austrailians, and many europeans who speak some english are hard to pick out. 

Every October a writer and editor who went to school in Athens visits Gainesville, because of motorsports. It's a draw that's more powerful than SEC rivalries. 

ddavidv
ddavidv UltimaDork
8/4/22 7:27 a.m.

I live in the heart of PA Amish country. The fewer tourists we have (especially from NY/NJ) the happier I am. Tourism is a "be careful what you wish for" situation.

frenchyd
frenchyd MegaDork
8/4/22 8:17 a.m.

In reply to ddavidv :

Then wish for European Immigrants.   They won't want to tour Amish country.  NYC  will keep 'em busy.  
  Then maybe the New Yorkers will be busy making money and stay home?  

Slippery
Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
8/4/22 8:32 a.m.
ddavidv said:

I live in the heart of PA Amish country. The fewer tourists we have (especially from NY/NJ) the happier I am. Tourism is a "be careful what you wish for" situation.

I spent a month in the PNW. In certain towns of Washington state I felt quite "welcomed" just from driving around in a rental with California plates ... They should close down all the hotels and put a gate on the highway leading to/leaving the towns. Easier that way. 

On the other hand when I visited the train museum near Strasburg in your neck of the woods it was quite a pleasant trip and everyone was nice, even with Florida plates. You guys are doing it wrong lol.

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