THE REBOUND: Tourism industry looking to rebound

Posted at 5:58 PM, Apr 21, 2020

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — At LEX 18, we're working to help our community and neighbors get what they need to move forward through the tough times brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The sun shines bright on beautiful downtown buildings, symbols of progress and growth in Lexington, now sitting mostly vacant.

"It hurts. It's a painful reality we've all been in these past five weeks," said Mary Quinn Ramer, president of VisitLEX.

VisitLEX is the city's tourism office. Ramer's job is to to attract visitors, conventions, and crowds to Lexington.

"There was so much momentum in the city," said Ramer.

Momentum that has slowed considerably since social distancing became the new reality.

As the spread of the virus became known, concerts and conventions were canceled. Hotels across the country, and world, emptied out as travel grounded to a halt.

"Then you don't have rooms sold at hotels and you don't have tax dollars coming in as a result of that," said Ramer.

Those tax dollars are what VisitLEX relies on for funding.

According to Smith Travel Report, the city lost $11,982,417 in hotel revenue between March 22-April 11 compared to last year during that same time frame. VisitLEX reports the office has a revenue shortfall of $479,296.68 compared to last year.

Here are more details about the financial hit for Lexington hotels:

Week of March 22-28
2019 = 72.1%
2020 = 18.7%
Room Revenue Assumption
2019 = $4,271,841
2020 = $770,069

Week of March 29-April 4
2019 = 66.5%
2020 = 15.9%
Room Revenue Assumption
2019 = $4,307,867
2020 = $612,559

Week of April 5-11
2019 = 75.9%
2020 = 15.1%
Room Revenue Assumption
2019 = $5,538,042
2020 = $552,705

"So we are looking at a very bleak April, May, into June," said Ramer.

But there are some glimmers of hope in a bleak time.

Last week, Ethereal Brewing opened it's second location in town.

"Beer seems to bring people together, and it seems to be working for us right now," said Andrew Bishop, owner of Ethereal Brewing.

Ethereal Brewing Public House is on Vine Street, near the newly-built City Center. Bishop says the plan was to be open in time for March Madness, but the pandemic shifted plans.

"It's difficult to have your grand opening under quarantine," said Bishop.

But the restaurant is open for curbside pickup, and looking forward to welcoming old friends to a new spot.

While more than 90 meetings and conventions are canceled through June, VisitLEX reports that at least four meetings have been rescheduled for later in the year.

VisitLEX is also using it's social media presence to promote the city's businesses and beauty.

Ramer says you can also take on the mural challenge, a socially distant way to witness the beauty of a Lexington that has come so far this century.

"We have certainly in this community dealt with some hard times before, and we've always rallied through those," said Ramer.

VisitLEX, Keeneland and other partners launched Nourish Lexington on April 1 to provide meals to the needy. Last week, they delivered more than 6,000 meals.

The good news comes in a time when we all could use some.