Louisville’s Tourism Sector Celebrates Record-Breaking 2023
Several of Louisville’s tourism-centric agencies saw exponential growth in 2023, breaking previous visitation records.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (February 1, 2024) – At the start of 2023, Bourbon City kicked off the year on a high note with The New York Times naming the city as one of the ‘52 Places To Go in 2023,’ further fueling Louisville Tourism’s prediction of growth versus recovery. Bourbon City made news again when Travel + Leisure reported the city as the number one U.S. summer travel destination on the Airbnb platform, followed by the Human Rights Campaign also awarding Louisville a perfect score for 2023, continuing the city’s nine-year streak.
Several of Louisville’s tourism-centric agencies also saw exponential growth in 2023, breaking previous visitation records:
- Kentucky Derby Museum set an all-time attendance record during their 2023 fiscal year with more than 250,000 guest visits.
- Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory recorded two new single-day attendance records during the year, the highest was 3,749 guests during the Beta Club National Convention on June 23.
- Louder Than Life music festival welcomed over 163,000 fans throughout the four festival days, the most in the festival’s history.
- Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) completed 2023 as its busiest year to date with more than 4.6 million total passengers. SDF was also named the fastest-growing airport of the Top 100 airports in the continental U.S.
- Urban Bourbon Experience flourished with Louisville’s 11 distilleries hosting a record 572,526 visitors.
- KFC Yum! Center hosted the three largest-selling performances of North American arena tours for three national acts.
Louisville continues to undergo a spirited renaissance with bourbon-themed hotels, festivals, restaurants and more than a dozen additional distilleries and attractions open within the city limits. 2023 marked the addition of four new tasting rooms and retail stores, including Castle & Key 502, Buzzard’s Roost Whiskey Row Experience, Bardstown Bourbon Company and an expansion by Bourbon Barrel Foods to meet demand for their popular Bourbon-infused soy sauces.
Bourbon City welcomed both new hotels and attractions in 2023 with notable openings:
- Myriad Hotel, a 65-room hotel housed in a former disco ball factory that features a chef-driven Mediterranean-inspired restaurant (Paseo), an outdoor pool, a cafe and a cocktail bar.
- Hotel Genevieve is turning heads in the NuLu neighborhood with its feminine French design, Parisian Cafe-inspired restaurant (Rosettes), a lush rooftop (Bar Genevieve), intimate speakeasy (Lucky Penny) and mini market.
- The $92 million Derby City Gaming Downtown entertainment hub opened in the heart of downtown with slots-like historical horse racing machines and three unique bar concepts including a premium bourbon library.
Louisville Tourism capitalized on the momentum by launching several new advertising campaigns centered on “Bourbon City” to increase brand recognition in top and emerging markets. The campaigns were a result of grant funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), part of the federal funding announced by Governor Andy Beshear over the summer to boost the state’s tourism economy industry.
Looking ahead to 2024, Bourbon City will continue to toast new development with a slate of projects:
- American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s The Last Refuge will bring a new restaurant, whiskey bar, and live music venue concept to a 150-year-old church in the NuLu neighborhood.
- Churchill Downs' three-year expansion and seating area upgrades will culminate with a redesigned Paddock unveil, just time to celebrate the 150th Kentucky Derby.
- Canopy Derby City Hotel downtown will feature 168 rooms, a restaurant/rooftop event space, pool and a bar.
- Tempo by Hilton Louisville Downtown NuLu is opening with 130 hotel rooms and an on-site dining concept.
- Log Still Distillery’s Monk’s Road Boiler House plans a supper club-inspired restaurant and tasting room.
- Rabbit Hole Distillery and Angel’s Envy are both expanding their current operations and visitor experiences along with Brough Brothers Distillery opening a new visitor experience on River Road.
- Pursuit Spirits has a new tasting room under construction on Whiskey Row.
- Kentucky’s first female Master Distiller, Marianne Eaves, is slated to be part of a bourbon concept housed in a new downtown boutique hotel.
The new year is already starting off strong out of the gate with Travel + Leisure highlighting Louisville on their list of ‘Top Places to Travel to in 2024.’ For a list of Louisville’s 2023 accolades, please visit Louisville Tourism’s news site.