Kentucky invested $5.3 million to boost tourism in cities across the state. Governor Andy Beshear and Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry presented checks to seven city tourism organizations and representatives of tourism efforts in nine regions.
Beshear stressed that the tourism recovery funding would help promote the areas. Tourism brings more than 67 million people to Kentucky each year; however, the pandemic reduced travel across the country. Many hotels, restaurants, and attractions lost tourism-related business after the government enacted pandemic restrictions in 2020.
Berry estimated last year that the pandemic had a $2 billion negative impact on the state’s tourism industry. VisitLex President and CEO Mary Quinn Ramer told legislators during a 2021 interim hearing that Lexington hotels lost $120 million from March 2020 to March 2021.
The money Kentucky invested on Wednesday is specifically designated for marketing efforts. Beshear said the investment would help boost the entire state. “Tourism is a driving force in our economy,” he noted.
Kentucky awarded $4.6 million to the following city tourism agencies:
- Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau — $89,364
- Visit Owensboro — $90,202
- Paducah Convention and Visitors Bureau — $114,446
- Bowling Green Area Convention and Visitors Bureau — $164,155
- VisitLex — $544,959
- Meet NKY — $883,155
- Louisville Tourism — $1.36 million
Agencies in Kentucky’s nine tourism regions will split another $678,624.
Louisville Tourism President and CEO Cleo Battle noted that his city lost 60% of its tourism funding because of the pandemic. Battle and Murray Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Erin Carrico urged legislators to include additional tourism dollars in the biennial budget.
The proposed Senate budget provides $75 million for tourism marketing and another $25 million in local tourism grants. The House version and Governor Beshear’s budget do not include additional tourism funding.