Gregory predicted that bourbon tourism will quickly rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
“I think next year will be more of a normal year and if this trend continues, I think it will be another record-setting year,” he said.
Bourbon is an $8.6 billion industry in Kentucky, where 95% of the world’s supply is crafted, according to the association. About 9.3 million barrels of bourbon were aging in the state last year, or more than two barrels for every person living in Kentucky. And bourbon tourism has become a big business, driven in part by a surge in enthusiasm overseas.
Spirits companies invested huge sums into new or expanded visitors’ centers to play up the industry’s heritage and allow guests to soak in the sights and smells of bourbon making. Kentucky Bourbon Trail visitors spend, on average, between $400 to $1,200 per trip, Gregory said. More than 70% of visitors come from outside Kentucky.
To help visitors plan trips, the organization is promoting a new Bourbon Trail Passport and Field Guide, a 150-page guide to participating distilleries, with cocktail recipes and suggested itineraries.
In Bardstown, where Heaven Hill opened its tourist center, the return of travelers will spin off considerably more spending at restaurants, stores and motels, said Dixie Hibbs, a former mayor.