Face of 'tourism' set to change

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By Walt Reichert

Shelby County Tourism director Charlie Kramer will be turning over the reins of the job to his granddaughter, Katie Kramer. But the change won't happen overnight.

Katie, who has been an intern with Tourism for a year, is a senior at the University of Louisville and will graduate in May. She will remain as an intern until July of next year when she and Charlie will serve as co-directors.

"Basically, the board extended her internship to two-and-a-half years," Charlie said.

After the 2009-2010 fiscal year, Katie will take over as director and Charlie will assist.

"I'll probably have to do all of the jobs then I've made her do," Charlie said.

Tourism's board chair is Cherry Settle, co-owner of Claudia Sanders Dinner House. She said the board believes Katie will be a good fit as director because she will have the technology skills necessary to keep Tourism in front of the general public.

"Those of us in the older generation don't have the computer skills we should," Settle said. "I believe she will be very good with people also."

Katie Kramer lives in Simpsonville. She will have a degree in business with a focus in marketing and advertising.

Charlie Kramer said over the years the Internet has been the tool that has brought tourists to Shelby County.

"I'd estimate that at least 80 percent of the tourists that come here find us on the Internet," Kramer said.

Tourism offers tours of local horse farms to groups from one to dozens. It also promotes the county's other agricultural enterprises, shops, restaurants and businesses. Kramer is currently on a tour of France and Germany with other local officials who are promoting the county and looking for businesses and industries that may want to locate here.

Funds for the operation of the office come from a 3 percent bed tax. The state association of tourism directors has about 45 members.

"The job of tourism is to drive business to the businesses in the county," Kramer said.


Charlie Kramer has been tourism director for 16 years. Previously, he was manager of Claudia Sanders Dinner House and was an owner of a group of Hardees restaurants.

Tourism, he said, has become a big job in Shelby County.

"When I first came here we had nothing to do; we waited for the phone to ring," Kramer said.

But that has changed. With the county's designation as the Saddlebred Capital of the World, more and more tourists have come to the county to see the horses and horse farms. Last year, tourism gave 151 tours to about 3,700 people, Kramer said.

Kramer said the advantage of having Katie take over the post, beyond her skills with marketing and the computer, is that the transition will be smooth since she will have served as intern for more than two years.

"I'm concerned that we not lose ground," Kramer said. "With change there is almost always a bump in the road. There's no way to train anybody to do this job in a month."