LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Louisville Tourism hopes showcasing the area’s rich African American history will help attract more diverse leisure travelers. And this week’s African American Travel Conference is helping accomplish that goal.
The conference is a big deal for Louisville, as it is the city’s first industry conference since the COVID-19 pandemic started. From Tuesday through Thursday, it will bring 200 delegates downtown.
“They are travel planners, and they are here to see our city,” said Cleo Battle, the chief operating officer for Louisville Tourism. “And then what the hope is that they go back and they decide with their members — who they plan trips for — that they’ll plan more trips to Louisville.”
The conference is expected to bring an economic impact of nearly $92,000 to the city, but it’s also part of a bigger picture for Louisville Tourism to attract more Black visitors.
“Before the pandemic, Louisville tracked 19 million visitors a year," Battle said. "Eleven percent of that 19 million were African Americans. Well, we want to grow that pie."
This summer, Battle he will be taking the lead role of president and CEO of city’s marketing agency. And he’s taking on the big task of helping Louisville bounce back.
“First and foremost, we’ve got to bring those 19 million visitors back," he said. "You’re starting to see a glimmer. There’s certainly a glimmer of visitation starting to return to the market."
And as those visitors return, Louisville Tourism plans to use marketing strategies to specifically target Black tourists. Battle said he read a recent report stating African American leisure visitation in the U.S. is a $109 billion industry. So to celebrate diversity and inclusion and highlight Louisville’s rich history, Louisville Tourism put together the Unfiltered Truth Collection.
“The experience deals with the history of African Americans in shaping Louisville’s culture,” Battle said.
Seven museums and attractions have special exhibits or displays that tell part of their stories in African American history. The groups participating include:
- Evan Williams Bourbon Experience
- Kentucky Derby Museum
- Frazier History Museum
- Kentucky Center for African American Heritage
- Locust Grove
- Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
- Roots 101 African American Museum
For example, Battle said, “Evan Williams is telling the story of Tom Bullock, who was considered the first African American bartender to write a cocktail book from Louisville.”
Battle believes the city’s strategy with these new experiences will be successful in attracting new visitors and providing a richer, more memorable stay for everyone.
“We feel like it’s a big deal in what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go as a city and community,” he said.
To learn more about the Unfiltered Truth Collection, click here.
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