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Did you know that tourism to the state of Kentucky contributes $13.1 billion to Kentucky’s economy?  Did you know that our neighbors to the south in Tennessee spend $9.7 million in advertising their state, while the areas of Pigeon Forge spends $8.9 million and Gatlinburg spends $3.2 million?  While Kentucky only spends $1.6 million to promote the entire commonwealth?  Did you also know that every dollar in advertising for tourism results in $15 back in tax revenues? Did you know that tourism is Kentucky’s third largest export industry, yet it’s the #1 industry in the WORLD? What do our neighbors to the south in Tennessee have to offer that we don’t have here in Kentucky?  One word…NOTHING!

What is Tourism?

Tourism is vast, so much so that the World Tourism Organization (WTO) has described it as the world’s largest industry. In that vastness it is difficult to arrive at a concise definition of tourism. The following definition effectively captures the visitor and business sides of tourism:

Tourism is a collection of activities, services, and industries which deliver a travel experience comprising of transportation, accommodation, eating and drinking establishments, retail shops, entertainment businesses and other hospitality services provided for individuals or groups traveling away from home.


Look around you.  Look in our own backyard of Frankfort and see that we live in a beautiful historic city, surrounded by nature and an abundance of activities to do indoors and out.  From canoeing and kayaking, to fishing, to hiking and biking, to trips to the surrounding distilleries and wineries, to history on every corner of the city and throughout the county, to the art and music that surrounds us, Frankfort is truly a unique and under appreciated place to visit.  Many people just see the city as the place where “those politicians go to ruin our state”.  But, if they truly come here to visit the city, they’d see that we are wonderful misunderstood community of loving people living in a beautiful area of the commonwealth.  Come to think of it, they’re probably just jealous!

But Frankfort and many of it’s attractions are just one of hundreds of places that the Kentucky Travel Industry Association (KTIA) represents and helps promote.  Capital Living was lucky enough to spend a couple of days with the folks at KTIA on Wednesday and Thursday, when they held their KTIA Legislative Event in the Capital City.  KTIA is comprised of over 800 travel and tourism professionals, whose membership reaches from Pikeville to Paducah and from Covington to the Tennessee line. Their members include:

  • Convention/Visitors Bureaus
  • Tourism Offices
  • Attractions
  • Parks
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Industry Suppliers
  • State Tourism Agencies
  • Wineries
  • Distilleries
  • Marinas
  • Individuals
  • ANYONE related to or interested in Kentucky Tourism!

Do you know the 10 reasons why Tourism is One of Kentucky’s Most Important Industries?  Read below so you do:


During their first of the two-days here in Frankfort, dozens of these members met at the Kentucky History Center to find out more about their part in the state’s tourism industry, and how they can help encourage their legislators to get on board to help make Kentucky tourism the #1 export!  Such legislative influences such as Senator Chris Girdler, Co-Chair of the Tourism Development Subcommittee; Senate President Robert Stivers; Representative Rita Smart (AKA Momma Smart to her counterparts), Co-Chair of the Tourism Development Subcommittee; Representative John Short, Chairman of the House Tourism Development and Energy Committee; Secretary Don Parkinson, Tourism Arts and Heritage Cabinet; Commissioner Donnie Holland, Kentucky Department of Parks; and Commissioner Kristen Branscum, Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism were all on hand to speak about tourism in the commonwealth and the importance of promoting ourselves.

We think Commissioner Branscum said it best when she said, “Why Not?  Why NOT Kentucky?”

Tennessee doesn’t have anything on us as a state in it’s beauty.  We have underground caverns and caves to explore, horses, bourbon, wine, and more miles of navigable waterways.  There is so much more going for this state than against it!  We need to just do a better job of promoting it and it’s upkeep.

If you’d like to read more about the impact of tourism in the commonwealth, click HERE.

This year, many issues face Kentucky Tourism which will directly impact the industry as a whole.  To read more about those issues currently being discussed in this year’s session, click HERE.