When Jason Swanson, a University of Kentucky assistant professor, began teaching a tourism planning and development class, he knew he wanted a  class project that gave his students hands-on experience working in their potential career field.  He partnered with Troy Beam, executive director of the Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourist and Convention Commission, to make that happen.

This fall, the students, juniors and seniors majoring in Hospitality Management and Tourism in UK’s College of Agriculture, are developing a strategic tourism development plan for the county. The plan will include goals for the community and tactics to meet those goals.

“I wanted the students to learn about the process that goes into planning a whole tourism destination,” Swanson said. “When developing a strategic tourism plan, they not only have to make considerations for tourists, but community members and tourism-related business owners as well.”

“For us, it’s a great opportunity to have some brand new eyes look at our community and give us new ideas and critiques, both good and bad,” Beam said.

The class recently traveled to Bullitt County to visit some of the larger tourism attractions including the Jim Beam distillery, Forest Edge Winery, Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, Zappos outlet and Kart Kountry.

Prior to the trip, the students were divided into groups focusing on different components of the tourism system, including geography, entertainment, competitive destinations and marketing, and began researching the area. Beam also spoke to the students about the county and its tourism issues during a class session.

Kellie Cash, a senior from Frankfort, wants to go into event planning upon graduation. She said what she’s learning as a member of the competitive analysis group will help her when she begins her career.

“It’s helped me to be able to see what Bullitt County has compared to other counties, both strengths and weaknesses,” she said. “I’ll definitely want to do a competitive analysis when I begin event planning to make my offerings better.”

In the next few weeks, the class will propose tourism development goals for the community. Students will then work on developing tactics in their specific areas for achieving goals based on what they’ve seen and researched. They will turn in their sections at the end of the semester, and Swanson and his graduate student will compile them into one document for Beam and Shepherdsville-Bullitt County Tourist and Convention Commission.