FRANKFORT, Ky. – Following a banner year for Kentucky tourism in 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear announced today that the state broke an all-time record in 2023 with nine new tourism development projects that are set to generate an estimated $301.2 million in economic investment. These projects are also expected to create 628 jobs once operational.
This year marks the most projects granted final approval in a single year by the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority since the tourism incentive was created in 1996. Today’s news furthers recent tourism growth as last year the state saw the best year on record for tourism with nearly $13 million in economic impact and 91,668 jobs. In 2022, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail also surpassed 2 million visitors for the first time ever, setting a new record.
“More people and businesses are coming to Kentucky to enjoy the world-class experiences our great state has to offer,” said Gov. Beshear. “With these historic investments and record tourism numbers, we are helping to build that better Kentucky for our families and communities for decades to come.”
This year, the commonwealth has given final approval to nine tourism development projects, including:
- The Appalachian Wildlife Foundation’s Boone’s Ridge in Bell County, with an estimated $60.5 million investment that is expected to create 110 jobs.
- Augusta Distillery in Bracken County, with an estimated $36.5 million investment that is expected to create 14 jobs.
- Elizabethtown Courthouse Hotel in Hardin County, with an estimated $8.2 million investment that is expected to create 18 jobs.
- Louisville Pickleball in Jefferson County, with an estimated $13.9 million investment that is expected to create 89 jobs.
- The Dine and Play Social House in Simpson County, with an estimated $33.8 million investment that is expected to create 163 jobs.
- Lexington Sporting Club multipurpose youth sports fields in Fayette County, with an estimated $25.4 million investment that is expected to create 7 jobs.
- Schneider Fairgrounds LLC’s Crowne Plaza Louisville Airport renovation in Jefferson County, with an estimated $25 million investment that is expected to create 70 jobs.
- Sandy’s Racing and Gaming entertainment facility and racetrack in Boyd County, with an estimated $82.3 million investment that is expected to create 149 jobs.
- The Garden Outdoor Resort in Grant County, with an estimated $15.6 million investment that is expected to create 8 jobs.
“Tourism and economic development go hand in hand, and we are proud of this record-breaking achievement,” said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet Secretary Lindy Casebier. “Tourism development projects allow attractions to develop and expand, and we look forward to continued growth in the future.”
The projects are approved through the Tourism Development Act, which supports the development, rehabilitation and expansion of tourism projects. This program provides developers the ability to recover up to 25% of the project’s development costs over a 10-year term through sales tax generated onsite. Projects including but not limited to lodging facilities constructed on state parks, federal parks or national forest lands are eligible to recover up to 50% of the development costs over a 20-year term.
The projects that received final approval in 2023 can receive a maximum potential incentive of $86.4 million. The state has also preliminarily approved six tourism development projects in 2023, including a proposed $133.6 million Margaritaville hotel coming to Newport on the Levee. The property is expected to generate 282 new jobs – 187 full-time jobs and 95 part-time jobs – for Campbell County.
“After a banner year for Kentucky tourism in 2022, we’re delighted to witness a surge in new tourism development projects applying for incentives,” saidCommissioner of Tourism Mike Mangeot. “Every one of these investments promises to elevate the visitor experience in Kentucky, and we can’t wait to see the exciting developments to come.”
“In working with the Tourism Development Finance Authority, Lexington Sporting Club was able to deliver first-class facilities that will serve as a year-round sports tourism destination for our region. We have tournaments already scheduled in November and February, attracting over 200 teams from all over the country,” said Lexington Sporting Club co-owner Stephen Dawahare.
“When we chose to invest $75 million in Sandy’s Racing & Gaming, we knew it could help Eastern Kentucky become a true entertainment destination,” said Larry Lucas, chairman of Revolutionary Racing Kentucky, which opened the new historical horse racing facility in Ashland last week. “Sandy’s has already seen visitors from more than a dozen states, and we know that when our quarter horse track, Sandy Ridge, opens in 2025, horse racing fans from around the country will be coming to Boyd County.”
The previous record was set in 2021, with eight projects approved and an estimated future investment of more than $278.3 million.
Kentucky’s impressive economic growth is a direct reflection of the Beshear administration’s continued investments in the tourism industry.
Last July, Gov. Beshear announced $75 million in funding from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to boost the state’s tourism industry and economy. Previously, the Governor dedicated $5.3 million in federal funding to 103 tourism and destination marketing organizations in 88 Kentucky counties.
Last year, 75.9 million travelers visited Kentucky, spending $8.9 billion across the commonwealth, according to a study by Tourism Economics. More than $937 million in state and local taxes were generated, equating to a $536 tax savings for every Kentucky household.
Since the beginning of his administration, Gov. Beshear has announced more than 900 private-sector new-location and expansion projects totaling over $27.8 billion in announced investments, creating 48,700 jobs. This is the highest investment figure for any governor in state history.
For more information and to view the full economic impact report, please visit Tourism Development Incentive Program.