LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Kentucky tourism industry was one of the first industries to take a hit because of the coronavirus.
Nearly 1,000 Kentuckians rely on Kentucky tourism as a source of income.
"The reason they exist is to market their communities, market Kentucky, to visitors. And that market and visitation results in an $11 Billion industry," Hank Phillips, President of the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, said.
But, because of the coronavirus, the industry has had to pivot. The bureaus in each county have turned the skills used for marketing to tourists, to helping their small towns.
"Using their websites and social media. And then they really focused in on hotels and restaurants. With restaurants, they made sure that the public and the communities knew which restaurants were doing carryout and delivery," Phillips said.
Travel and tourism businesses across the bluegrass have had to lay off over 50% of their employees. The Kentucky Travel Industry Association says although travel was the first industry to be impacted, it'll be the last to bounce back.
"Businesses need to get folks back on the road, the leisure traveler needs to gain confidence and have the ability to travel," Phillips said.
In the meantime, the biggest hurdle has been just to maintain operations. But the association says with absolute certainty, the industry will make a come back.
"The industry has been devastated. Devastated, not defeated," Phillips said.