Tourism strong in Kentucky....How to keep it that way. - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Tourism strong in Kentucky....How to keep it that way.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- How to keep the good times rolling for Kentucky's travel industry -- That is the challenge, as right now business is booming.

When it opens next week, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience will be Kentucky's newest tourist attraction.  The Heaven Hill Distillery, which owns the Main Street attraction, predicts 110,000 visitors will come during its first year that it is open.

Laura Cole, the executive director of the Kentucky Travel Industry, which is holding its annual convention in Louisville this week, visited the site as part of a tour group before the experience opens.  "People coming in for the bourbon experience will stay for so much more, like the horses and eating at local restaurants," she says.

According to state government, tourism in Kentucky has more than a $12 billion impact on the state's economy in 2012.

At a Thursday morning breakfast meeting of the travel industry convention, Kentucky's Lt. Governor says he has a bullish outlook on the tourism industry in Kentucky.

"The boomers are coming, folks," says Jerry Abramson, "the boomers are coming, you might as well get ready for it, they have the energy, they have the physical capabilities to travel, and most importantly they have the money."

But to continue to bring in the convention visitors, there is a move underway to expand the downtown convention center.

"You expand the convention center," says Cole, "you get more meetings, more people, you get larger conventions, more tourism, and you just get people to go out and visit our surrounding counties and come to Kentucky, so that kind of growth is always good for us.

Abramson adds, "Our competitors, like Nashville, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, are moving on, they are building new and expanded facilities, we need to stay competitive."

But Abramson acknowledges finding state dollars will not be easy.  "The dollars are really tight once again," he says, "there are a lot of different groups that are fighting for a nickel or a dime."

The Kentucky State Fair Board is leading the effort to expand the convention center. But a spokesperson says its too early to say how much state money will be needed for an expansion.

Nevertheless lawmakers are likely to be asked to help to do their part to help to keep tourism and the convention businesses booming.

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