COVINGTON, Ky. — The Kentucky tourism industry posted record-breaking numbers in 2022, generating an economic impact of almost $13 billion. Places like Covington in northern Kentucky have become hot spots for travellers as a result.
Smoke Justis managing partner Demian Wilson says his business, and others in the region, help showcase the heart of Kentucky by being a part of northern Kentucky’s self-guided bourbon tour, the B-Line.
“It’s like an adult Disneyland. It’s an opportunity for people to take it at their own leisure and explore an area that quite frankly is hidden,” Wilson said.
Like many businesses, Smoke Justis had to navigate the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic. But with huge investments from the American Rescue plan, the tourism industry was able to turn it around.
In 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear, D-Ky., and the Kentucky General Assembly allocated $75 million in ARP funding to promote Kentucky tourism. The result was a record-breaking year in tourism revenue. MeetNKY President and CEO Julie Kirkpatrick says northern Kentucky brought in about $1.95 billion of the $12.9 billion generated statewide.
“What’s most exciting is the amount of jobs that have grown in our region. We have added a thousand jobs in the tourism industry and that is a benefit for every visitor that comes to this region. It is a benefit for the people that are working in this industry and it’s also great for the people that live here,” Kirkpatrick shared.
Wilson says 2022 was a good year for his business and a strong rebound from the pandemic. “To re-emerge on the other side of it, to have such high accolades, and certainly nationally this is kind of a godsend,” he said.
He believes the increase in travel has led to more people stumbling upon his business.