Did you know that tourism to the state of Kentucky contributes $13.7 billion to Kentucky’s economy, exceeding that of coal and agriculture, and was only exceeded slightly by the automotive industry? While the automotive industry only effects immediate regions where those industries are located, such as Bowling Green (Corvette), Georgetown (Toyota), and Louisville (Ford), tourism is state-wide! Every city, every town, every natural resource, can benefit from tourism. Did you know that Kentucky only spends $1.6 million to promote the entire commonwealth? Did you also know that every dollar in advertising for tourism results in $16 back in tax revenues? A business person would call that a great return on investment (ROI). A study by the Kentucky Department of Travel and Tourism found that for every dollar of state advertising of Kentucky, $151 is generated in visitor expenditures. The same study found that nearly $16 in state and local tax revenue is generated by every dollar of advertising. Considering today’s explosive political climate focused on creating jobs, why don’t our lawmakers put more money into this industry? We have fallen behind when you look at the amount of advertising dollars that goes into our neighboring states versus the commonwealth.

Tourism supports nearly 186,200 Kentucky jobs. The range of job-types associated with tourism vary to include highly skilled, highly paid technical, managerial and professional positions, to entrepreneurs, to a significant number of employment opportunities for lesser skilled workers.

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 our state government is run. But Frankfort is so much more. It’s a community of friendly people wanting to share the beauty, the history, the culture, and the natural resources, with those who have come to see it for themselves.

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 spent a couple of days with the folks at KTIA on Wednesday and Thursday, during 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!


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!


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.

Photos from Day 1 of the KTIA Conference

Always an advocate for tourism in the Commonwealth, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association (KTIA) held a luncheon at the state capitol on Thursday to host their state legislators and talk about the current issues that face the industry.  Nearly 250 state employees as well as the legislators enjoyed a great meal provided by Staxx BBQ, and delicious fried apple pies from Evans Orchard compliments of the Bluegrass Hospitality Association.

The Legislative Event is an opportunity for Kentucky’s travel and tourism industry to join together as advocates on issues confronting the industry. Held each year during the General Assembly’s Legislative Session, KTIA members are provided with issues and advocacy information during the event’s first day, and then advocate their views on the second day during one-on-one meetings and a lunch with legislators.

Although member contact with legislators is a year round effort, KTIA’s Legislative Event is a key moment in the year where members can come together as a group to ensure that the industry’s messages are being heard.

Day 2 of the KTIA Legislative Conference – Legislative Luncheon