Q & A with KTIA’s Hank Phillips
Kentucky Living embraces our Kentucky travel partners throughout the year, and we have also been working during the pandemic shutdown to support these destinations and the travel industry.
Since 1980, the Kentucky Travel Industry Association has provided the industry with advocacy, education, information and business development services.
To better understand the effect of the coronavirus pandemic on Kentucky’s travel industry, Kentucky Living reached out to KTIA CEO/President Hank Phillips.
KL: What has the pandemic meant for Kentucky’s travel destinations?
Phillips: The impact of the pandemic on Kentucky’s tourism industry has been devastating. The tourism industry was the earliest hit by the economic effects of the crisis and it has been among the most deeply affected. A travel ban was in place, attractions and restaurants had to close, and although hotels were allowed to remain open, most lost virtually all of their business. Conferences, festivals and major events were cancelled or postponed. You cannot experience all that of near total damage to an industry and be anything short of devastated.
But the most important point is that being devastated does not mean being defeated. People will travel again and Kentucky has all the same tremendous experiences to offer them are we had before the crisis. And the people who make up this industry are anxious to extend the same friendly welcome and warm hospitality that Kentucky is known for. We may not be able to see them under all the masks, but we are going to make sure there is no shortage of smiles on the faces of our guests and visitors.
KL: How are Kentucky’s travel destinations preparing for the easing of coronavirus restrictions?
Phillips: Traveling and fully enjoying our destinations will now require feeling safe and having confidence that everything possible is being done to protect your health. As Kentucky’s tourism industry gears back up there has been a great deal of planning occurring to meet and exceed those new expectations.
KL: Do you sense that Kentuckians feel “cooped up” and are anxious to get out and see the state?
Phillips: There is every indication that Kentuckians are beyond ready to get out and hit the road. Those indications include staying a little closer to home as we begin traveling again.
In normal times, visitors from around the country and world come to Kentucky and our destinations love hosting them. But our destinations are especially excited by the prospect of welcoming larger numbers of Kentuckians than normal.
Kentuckians have a special kinship through our shared love and pride for our state. As we all begin to emerge and recover from the crisis, a renewal of that kinship through a Kentucky trip will be great therapy.
KL: Why are trips within Kentucky a great idea in 2020?
Phillips: There is a treasure chest of experiences and memories just waiting for Kentuckians to discover right in our own backyard. The gems and jewels in that treasure chest include a multitude of outdoor activities; history from Boone, to Lincoln to Ali; the arts in every possible form; fun theme and amusement parks; horses, bourbon and other iconic Kentucky experiences; and our rural beauty, small town authenticity and exciting urban venues. Add to that a full range of excellent lodging and accommodation options and some of the best restaurants anywhere. I would encourage your readers to explore kentuckyliving.com and Kentucky tourism’s website, kentuckytourism.com. and make plans to dive into the Kentucky travel treasure chest.
And here’s a bonus idea. Instead of one long distance vacation this year, one that you may not be entirely comfortable taking yet, you can plan and afford multiple shorter distance Kentucky trips.