• Joe Graviss

Legislative Update - June 14th, 2020 - Summer Vacation & Kentucky Tourism Amid Coronavirus

Hi everybody,


Deb and I continue to pray and work for justice for all and peace in the land.

Just as it has done with nearly everything else in our lives, the coronavirus is forcing many of us to rethink the traditional summer vacation.


If you are among those now planning a staycation, or if you’re just wanting something different to do on any given day, the good news is that the commonwealth has no shortage of places to go as our economy continues to re-open.


Kentucky, it should be noted, has long been a tourist destination.  In fact, Mammoth Cave is the country’s second-oldest paid tourist attraction, after Niagara Falls.  It’s been a little more than 200 years since local residents began charging visitors to see the world’s longest cave system.


The coronavirus has had an outsized impact on tourism around the globe, and in the United States, nearly half of the 15 million people who worked in hospitality in early March were out of a job by the end of May.  Here in Kentucky, it’s estimated nearly three-fourths of those in this industry have been laid off or furloughed.


They’re many of the same ones who helped make tourism a more than $7 billion industry in 2018.  According to the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, that’s a fifth higher than we saw just five years earlier.


The Cabinet said there were almost 72 million visitor trips to and within the commonwealth that year, while the industry supported 94,500 jobs and provided more than $790 million in state and local taxes.


Nearly two million of those trips were to one or more of the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, one of our newest attractions that just turned 20 last year. Many of the distilleries, of course, are much older, and the trail is actually split among those larger ones and other, smaller ones that have been built in recent years.  Many have started re-opening to the public, or soon will, and the same goes for our craft breweries.  Nearly 20 of them have banded together to form what they call the Brewgrass Tour.

In addition to local and regional attractions, Kentucky also has numerous historical sites if you’re looking for an educational trip in the weeks or months ahead. We have 30 of the country’s 2,500 National Historic Landmarks – those irreplaceable locations that help define who we are as a nation – and they include such places as Shaker Village, Fort Boonesborough and the Old State Capitol.

Kentucky has a historical-marker program that takes an even closer look at sites that might otherwise be lost to time.  There are well over 2,000 of these now, and many have been linked as part of 54 separate tours. These will take you to 100 places affiliated with the Civil War, 30 that have ties to President Lincoln and almost two dozen highlighting our contributions during World War I. If you would like to learn more about these tours, there’s a smartphone app that puts this history right in your hands. Look for “ExploreKyHistory” in your phone carrier’s app store.


It’s worth noting that Kentucky has some other interesting historical locations.  In Northern Kentucky, for example, Big Bone Lick State Park is home to the country’s first large-bone paleontology dig, with some of the bones of mastodons and mammoths collected by Thomas Jefferson. Archeologists, meanwhile, think some of this hemisphere’s first farmers were Kentuckians, so to speak, since there is evidence that early bands of pre-historic settlers in Red River Gorge domesticated such wild plants as the sunflower, using its seeds for food.


Other unique tourist draws range from the birthplace of bluegrass music at Bill Monroe’s home in Western Kentucky to Eastern Kentucky’s Country Music Highway, which winds past the childhood homes of such stars as Loretta Lynn, the Judds and Billy Ray Cyrus. Woodford County, among others, has a beautiful quilt tour posted mostly on barns all over the county.


If you’re not sure where to visit, the state’s Tourism, Arts, and Heritage Cabinet has a website that is a good place to start.  You can find it at www.kentuckytourism.com.


As summer gets underway, I encourage you to search out some of these tourist and historical sites.  There’s a lot to do and a lot to learn about here at home, and now more than ever, these businesses and organizations need our support.

If you have any thoughts or suggestions about this, please let me know.  I can be reached by email at joe.graviss@lrc.ky.gov, while the toll-free message line at 1-800-372-7181 is available each weekday. 

Thanks for all you do and holler anytime.

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