Ken Ham Blames Williamstown, KY (Again) for Impeding Ark Encounter’s Success

Whenever a newspaper publishes an opinion piece lauding the great work being done by Answers in Genesis, you have to raise an eyebrow and wonder what’s going on…

In this case it’s rather easy. You might have predicted it the moment Ken Ham wrote “Thanks to @Enquirer (Cincinnati Enquirer) for publishing opinion piece re impact of @ArkEncounter on tourism.”

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Who would say such a thing?

Ham, of course. He wrote the article. And it includes all the deflections of responsibility that we’ve come to expect from him.

For example, Ham predicts attendance at Ark Encounter will grow in its second year. But only on one condition…

As both the Ark and museum add phases, the economic impact will only get larger. For 2017–2018, Answers in Genesis (owner of both attractions) confidently predicts that the Ark will have even greater attendance than our excellent first year — provided, that is, we see more entrepreneurs building additional hotels to accommodate our visitors.

A few weeks ago, he was blaming atheists for the economic failures in the community. Now he’s blaming people who aren’t building enough hotels in the area.

By doing so, he creates a new scapegoat. If and when Ark Encounter fails, he’ll just pin it on the entrepreneurs, not anything he did (or didn’t do) personally.

Not that we should worry about attendance, says Ham. They’re doing just fine. And they’re beating the expectations!

Interestingly, a state-commissioned study predicted that if the Ark Encounter were a themed attraction featuring our creationist beliefs (and it does), it would draw 325,000 visitors the first year. The Ark reached that figure in less than three months.

He’s telling a half-truth here. It’s true that a state-commissioned study from 2014 — two years before the Ark even opened — predicted Ark Encounter would have 325,000 visitors in its first year. That was a conservative estimate based on other, similar attractions (which don’t really exist). Ham has presumably beaten that mark.

What Ham isn’t telling you is how his own estimates for Ark attendance have reached as high as 2 million people in the first year.

While the state had to offer a conservative estimate — and develop a sort of worst-case scenario — to see whether the Ark would qualify for tourism incentives, Ham has consistently provided overestimates. But he only offers one of those numbers for the sake of comparison in his article.

What about the hotels? Ham writes:

While tourism-related businesses are thriving in Grant County, especially in the city of Dry Ridge, more tourist facilities are desperately needed to handle the Ark crowds. The lack of hotel rooms limits us to 7,500 to 8,000 guests visiting the Ark in a day. Tour operators, hotel owners, restaurant managers, and tourism officials have acknowledged the remarkable increase in business region-wide, and they give a nod to the Ark and Creation Museum. Williamstown, where the Ark is located, doesn’t have the tourist-related services that Dry Ridge has, so it needs more businesses like hotels and restaurants if it hopes to experience the growth that Dry Ridge is now enjoying.

The claim that a lack of hotel rooms is capping maximum attendance just doesn’t make a lot of sense, in part because Ham assumes without evidence that more people would visit the Ark from out of town if those hotels existed. Can he not find people to visit the Ark from a few hours away? Not everyone needs to make a weekend trip of it.

Ham also creates another scapegoat in the city of Williamstown. They’re not doing enough to help us, he claims.

Maybe part of the reason for that is because Ark Encounter won’t hire employees from the region unless they share Answers in Genesis’ fundamentalist Christian beliefs, negotiated a ridiculously low 30-year rate on property taxes (which means money isn’t being recycled back into the community), takes money from employees’ paychecks to help repay their loans, and refuses to pay their fair share of a local “safety fee” that would help with upgrades to the city’s emergency response equipment (which would help make it even more of a tourist destination).

Ham wants to blame Williamstown for the city’s economic failures, but his $100 million boat isn’t giving the community the resources it needs to take advantage of it.

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