After two years of limited events Scott County tourism has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.
The Georgetown/Scott County Tourism Commission reported year-end revenue of $704,236 for fiscal year 21/22, up from $390,768 in 20/21, $549,639 in 19/20, and $600,715 in 18/19.
“We are very excited to see such a strong rebound for the Tourism Sector in Georgetown/Scott County,” said Lori Saunders, executive director of the tourism commission. “We attribute the success to our continuous advertising and marketing efforts during the pandemic.
“The Georgetown/Scott County Tourism Commissioners were adamant throughout the pandemic that in order to rebound quickly we had to remain steadfast in our promotion of the community as a destination. They were determined that our destination was not going to be left behind and our 21/22 Fiscal year revenue reflects that.”
The commission’s primary source of funding is transient taxes paid by visitors at hotels and short term rentals, so tourism revenue closely corresponds to the number of annual visitors to the area. Major events, like the Horsey Hundred and Land Rover Three Day Event, operating at full capacity for the first time since the pandemic have contributed to the rebound. The Horsey Hundred Memorial Day weekend bicycle ride, which brings between two to three thousand riders to the area in addition to event organizers and spectators, was canceled in 2020 and had limited riders in 2021. This year the event drew 2,317 riders from 37 states, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland.
The Land Rover Three-Day Event, formerly known as Rolex, reported record ticket sales this April after canceling in 2020 and running without spectators in 2021. The event, one of the most prestigious in the country, annually draws over 80,000 visitors to the Kentucky Horse Park which accounts for 16 percent of the 500,000 annual visitors to the park.
For the rest of the year the tourism commission will continue its line-up of downtown events, like Party of the Square and the Festival of the Horse, and the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland could bring new visitors to the area. The championship of Thoroughbred horse racing changes venues annually and was last hosted in Kentucky at Keeneland in 2020 without live attendance. Over 50,000 people attended the Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland in 2015, which broke a previous Keeneland attendance record of 40,617.
The local hotel industry has been expanding to meet the increased demand for lodging in the area. Since 2019 the addition of Home2 Suites Hilton and Sleep Inn/MainStay Suites has added 161 hotel rooms to Scott County’s inventory, bringing the room total at traditional hotels to 1191. Additionally a new Towneplace Suites by Marriot, expected to open at the end of 2022/early 2023 will add 94 more rooms. The Georgetown-Scott County Planning Commission also recently approved a final development plan for an RV campground off of U.S. 460 and Connector Road which will create 88 RV camping sites with expansion planned for the future.
Short-term rentals, like Airbnbs, have also been growing in the area. The tourism commission has seen increased revenue from these listings of $28,556 for the 21/22 fiscal year, up from $9,059 in 18/19. The increase is due to a combination of more and more existing rentals registering and paying their transient taxes as well as an increase in inventory. “There are very diverse short term property types throughout Scott County, such as cabins in the woods, an old distillery, horse farms, and historic locations,” Saunders said. “Short Term Rentals are a very niche market and we are fortunate to have a variety.”
According to a 2019 Economic Impact Study provided by the tourism commission, tourism in Scott County was responsible for 1,294 jobs, $35.54 million in labor income, $11.92 million in state and local taxes, and $156.67 million in spending.
In April, as part of the commonwealth’s budget the Kentucky legislature approved an allocation of $75 million of Kentucky’s American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) funding to help Kentucky’s tourism industry recover from the COVID pandemic. The funding, less than 3.5 percent of the total APRA funds, includes $25 million which will be distributed to local tourism commissions as well as another $50 million available in grants for multi-county regional tourism marketing and promotion of meetings and conventions. The funds are expected to be available as early as this fall. At this time it is not known how much funding Scott County will receive.
Elizabeth Morey can be reached at email@example.com.