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It isn't often that someone gets a free trip to England.
But when Katie Fussenegger heads across the ocean Thursday, officials hope all of Shelby County will benefit.
Fussenegger, co-director of the Shelbyville-Shelby County Tourism Commission, was selected by Rotary International to be one of five Kentuckians to do a work-study program abroad with all expenses paid by the organization.
The destination changes each year, and this year England was selected, Fussenegger said.
She will spend a month working with tourism commissions and visitors bureaus around the country, learning how they market their community.
"I just think it'll be neat to see how other tourism commissions and visitors bureaus operate and bring that back here,” Fussenegger said.
Charlie Kramer, Fussenegger's tourism commission co-director and grandfather, said it will be a great experience for her to gain ideas and make contacts with people.
"It's going to give her some experiences that we just wouldn't be able to afford if we had to pay for it,” Kramer said.
He said when he went to Europe last year, he saw that tourism is done differently there. It's mostly private companies instead of government agencies like Shelby County's, so they provide a different perspective.
"She's going to have an opportunity to see how these people do tourism, how that works there in relation to how it works here,” he said. "There aren't many original ideas left so you get them where ever you can.”
But Kramer said this particular trip will be beneficial for Fussenegger because she gets to work alongside those professionals for a month.
"That gives you a whole different perspective than just calling somebody or visiting and asking, 'What do you do?'“ he said.
Rotary International’s Group Study Exchange program provides travel grants to paired Rotary districts. There are about 525 districts in more than 200 countries, said Chuck Cicchella, Rotary’s governor for district 6710.
Shelbyville’s district was paired with one in England. The exchange teams composed of four to six non-Rotarian professionals (ages 25-40) and a Rotarian team leader live in homes of Rotarians in the exchange country wherever possible and follow a carefully prepared itinerary throughout the host district for approximately a 30-day day visit.
“Team members observe their host country's professional, commercial, and industrial operations; systems of government; education, health, welfare, and social institutions,” he said.
Fussenegger was sponsored by our Shelbyville Rotary Club to compete in the selection of our District exchange team. She competed with young professionals from all over central and western Kentucky.
Fussenegger said that while she's in England to learn, she also will be promoting Shelby County to the people she meets.
She's been preparing gifts of World Equestrian Games pins and Shelbyville gear for the host families and others in hopes that they might visit.
Though Fussenegger has only been working full time alongside him since 2007, Kramer said she has been involved with the tourism commission for several years by helping with special events.
She also had a semester of experience at the Louisville Visitors Bureau, he said.
"Considering that she's only been full time a couple of years, she's got years of experience and a degree,” Kramer said.
He said that a slow transition between tourism directors means a more seamless transition in the programs it offers.
"If we hired somebody in the business, they were going to want me out and them in, and there might be a break in the focus,” Kramer said.
He said just a month of training wouldn't be enough, but Fussenegger's willingness to come in and gain experience over an extended period of time has worked out better.
It also gives her a chance to go on trips like the one paid for by the Rotary organization.
Fussenegger said she doesn't know what her exact schedule in England will be yet, but she's excited.
She leaves Sept. 18.