With the Kentucky Derby less than two weeks away and the summer travel season approaching, state tourism officials are in full advertising mode right now. Those in tourism stress the economic gains seen through increased tourist numbers.
Now is the time to roll out the bluegrass carpet to visitors from far and near. Kentucky Travel and Tourism Commissioner Kristen Branscum admits the Derby attracts visitors through tradition. But Branscum says the term “Kentucky Derby’ can benefit attractions three hours away from Louisville. And the state focus is on out of state visitors.
“We focus on really outside of the state. We want to get those visitors from other states, other countries. We want to get them into Kentucky and spend their time and their money in our communities,” said Branscum.
The Kentucky Derby traditionally attracts a big crowd on its own. But, a number of smaller businesses do count on state tourism marketing to help generate commercial dollars. Pike County Tourism, Convention, and Visitors Bureau Director Tony Tackett says that comes into play for bed and breakfasts, boutiques, gift shops, and diners. “You know they rely on us because they don’t have that hub of marketing dollar. Whether it’s conference or conventions, honeymoons or weddings people come to Kentucky for. If they do not know, they do not show,” noted Tackett.
New travel figures are due out this spring. Branscum says some 26 million visitors made a stop in Kentucky in 2016. She says the 1% state transient room tax generates about $12 million annually.