FRANKFORT, Ky. — Summer is known by many as the best time to travel. Right here in the Commonwealth, the Kentucky Tourism cabinet explained how it hopes to get back to pre-pandemic levels and reflected on the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • Mike Mangeot serves as commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Tourism

  • Tourism is an $8.9 billion industry in Kentucky

  • Current travel patterns include taking road trips and finding money saving ways when lodging 

  • The pandemic left tourism down 26% in economic impact for 2020

The Kentucky Department of Tourism is a $8.9 billion dollar industry that fosters economic growth throughout the Commonwealth. Some of the biggest events that might ring a bell with the greatest impacts in 2021 were the Kentucky Derby, GIE + Expo and the Run 4 Roses Basketball Tournament.

Mike Mangeot serves as the commissioner with the Kentucky Department of Tourism, and said travel patterns now often include looking for the best deal. 

“What you’re really seeing is a lot of folks switching to road trips now due to the issues you’re having with a lot of flights,” said Mangeot. 

The uncertainty of air travel is an added stress for travelers. It comes as inflation continues to rise to astronomical rates of over 8% in the United States. 

“Maybe they’re staying in a hotel that offers a free breakfast instead of one that doesn’t. So [travelers are] adjusting, but we’re wired to travel,” Mangeot said. “There’s a lot of pent up demand out there right now.”

The demand for travel has looked different since the start of the pandemic when many states, including Kentucky, shuttered entertainment and travel experiences that left the state down 26% in the tourism industry. Before the pandemic, the Commonwealth brought in $12 million dollars for economic impact.

“During the pandemic we pivoted, really promoted in-state travel. We saw a lot of positive results for that. We actually had a very very successful 2021,” said Mangeot.

Last year, in-state travel was most prioritized to state parks or visiting small unique towns. He said it was great for families where comfort levels of travel varied, and that’s still a goal he has for families to increase the economic impact of tourism in 2022.

“The great thing about travel is it’s the best educational tool you’ll ever have,” said Mangeot.

Tourism in Kentucky has still not reached pre-pandemic numbers, but Mangeot hopes Kentuckians will continue to support in-state travel opportunities.

The Kentucky Department of tourism has released a 2022 Kentucky Inspiration Guide. The department has given out over 300,000 copies to residents that highlight travel destinations for new and diverse travel communities to visit. To view the guide, you can click here.