LEXINGTON, Ky. — Last year was the best ever recorded for Kentucky tourism, Gov. Andy Beshear announced on Tuesday. A study by Tourism Economics found the Commonwealth's industry generated nearly $13 billion in economic impact and created 91,668 jobs in 2022.

What You Need To Know

  • 2022 set a record for economic impact in Kentucky's tourism industry

  • The tourism industry also created a record 91,668 jobs last year

  • In 2022, 75.9 million travelers visited Kentucky, spending $8.9 billion across the commonwealth

  • Over $937 million in state and local taxes were generated

Beshear joined state tourism leaders at Lexington’s Crank & Broom Craft Ice Cream in the city’s Distillery District to celebrate the record-breaking year, which saw visitation surpass pre-pandemic volumes.

“Tourism is essential to Kentucky and that is why I have made it a priority to support this industry,” Beshear said. “From horse country and outdoor adventure to history, arts, culture and our world-famous bourbon, Kentucky has a little something for every traveler. But what really sets us apart is the hospitality and kindness of the hardworking Kentuckians in this industry.”

In 2022, 75.9 million travelers visited Kentucky, spending $8.9 billion across the commonwealth, according to a study by Tourism Economics.

Over $937 million in state and local taxes were generated, equating to a $536 tax savings for every Kentucky household. Total visitation reached 103% of 2019 volumes, and visitor spending reached 112%.

“These numbers underscore the economic benefits of tourism and the importance of investing in our local communities,” said Lindy Casebier, secretary of the Tourism, Arts & Heritage cabinet. “The investments made by Gov. Beshear have paid off and will continue to pay dividends across the commonwealth.”

The 2022 numbers surpassed the previous highest record of $11.8 billion in economic impact in 2019, and 91,668 jobs.

Communities across Kentucky saw historic numbers — including Fayette County which reached $1.5 billion in total economic impact, generating 11,209 jobs.

Crank and Boom Ice Cream, located in Lexington’s Distillery District, is one local business experiencing a boom of tourism revenue. The shop started as a thank you to customers that supported them when they were just getting started as a travel stand.

“We wanted it to be here for the locals, for all the people had followed us around at all these different festivals,” explained owner Tao Green.

Green started making ice cream 10 years ago at her Thai restaurant. And it became so popular that eight years ago, she opened a permanent shop.

Now, she says 70% of her business is people from out of town.

“I’ve heard of people who are in airports that are telling other visitors that are coming in that you have to go to this ice cream place in the Distillery District,” Green shared.

And Kentucky’s tourism is booming. Over 11,000 of the 92,000 tourism jobs created in 2022 were in Lexington alone. Vice President of Visit LEX Leslie Miller says people are traveling more frequently and longer.

“People are looking for those local authentic experiences and being able to connect when they’re visiting places. We’re always going to share things like our horses, our bourbon and Keeneland, the fabulous work they’ve done out there,” Miller said.

“You see these small businesses rooting for each other. If the restaurant next to us draws more visitors, more come over to Crank and Boom. It shows we’re not competing in Kentucky, we’re trying to lift everybody up,” said Beshear.

He says it’s important to continue investing in experiences and small businesses that bring people to the state. Throughout the pandemic, Beshear invested state and federal funds into the state’s tourism industry, benefitting business owners like Green and keeping their doors open.

“We get to feed off of that and we get to grow as a business, we get to create job, we get to grow and we get to be here another day to serve more people,” Green said.