Kentucky’s tourism industry expected to suffer up to $3 billion loss from pandemic

Kentucky House Republicans want to borrow $150 million to fix-up the state's park system.
Kentucky House Republicans want to borrow $150 million to fix-up the state's park system.(Kentucky State Parks)
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 10:54 AM CDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - A subcommittee on economic development and tourism met Wednesday morning to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s tourism industry.

Officials from tourism and parks, as well as local officials from across the commonwealth, painted a picture we all saw coming, a lot of losses because of the pandemic in those areas, but there is also optimism going forward.

Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Mike Berry and Parks Commissioner Russ Meyer described to the subcommittee the toll that the pandemic took on the tourism, travel and hospitality industries.

Secretary Berry said industries like hotels and motels took a huge hit during the pandemic, especially in the beginning when the industry seemingly came to a halt overnight.

However, other parts of the state saw huge boosts, mainly outdoor activities and state parks.

“Our campgrounds and other activities at state parks, our golf courses, etc., have seen record levels,” Berry said.

Even still, aspects like lodging at state parks took a hit as venues try to cope with a sharp decline in the number of companies and groups booking group outings and conventions at venues across the state.

Officials say the state will suffer an estimated $2-3 billion in revenue losses from tourism because of the pandemic.

However, amidst all that bad news, Secretary Berry says that data also shows Kentucky could spring forward in the coming months.

“People view Kentucky as a safe destination. That’s important as we begin to reopen,” Berry said. “The recovery is already evident we’re just not back to 2019 which was probably, if not, one of the best travel and tourism years in the commonwealth.”

Officials are hoping that with the uptick we’ve been seeing as well as additional investment, the tourism and hospitality industries will continue to rebound strongly.

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