Kentucky Bourbon Trail Wins Tourism Award


November 28, 2023

Mandy Ryan Kentucky Bourbon Trail award

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) announced that the legendary Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT) has received a Traverse Award for Excellence in Kentucky Tourism from the Kentucky Travel Industry Association. The award was presented during the 2023 Kentucky Travel Industry Annual Conference held November 8-10 at the Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail received a Gold Traverse for its “Book Now, Bourbon Later” digital marketing campaign. 

“We are thrilled to receive this Traverse Award,” Mandy Ryan, Director of Kentucky Bourbon Trail Experiences, said in a news release. “The Kentucky Bourbon Trail and our member distilleries strive to improve the visitor experience in our state everyday– it’s wonderful to be recognized for our efforts.”

The “Book Now, Bourbon Later” campaign was created in 2022 in response to the surge in tourism coming out of the pandemic when most distilleries were facing new challenges in the hospitality space. Challenges include guests showing up without tour reservations, decreased guest numbers per tour, rerouting of tour paths to avoid sensitive production areas, staffing shortages and burnout, and the generally cranky and underprepared “revenge tourists.” The digital campaign was launched with three main goals:

  • Shift public perceptions away from the belief that distillery tours are walk-in experiences.
  • Position KBT distilleries as world-class tourism destinations requiring reservations.
  • Educate visitors on why booking reservations is the best way to ensure optimal distillery experiences.

“Based on data from our booking software partners at AnyRoad, in Q2 of 2022, visitors were booking tours about 12 days in advance,” KDA President Eric Gregory said. “By Q4, they were booking tours 35-37 days in advance. That’s a big change.

“The overall campaign drove tourists to take action and become part of the Kentucky Bourbon community. It served as a brand awareness campaign, putting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in front of 378K people more than 1.3 million times, continuing to build the Bourbon economy in communities across the Commonwealth.”

With more than 75% of KBT visitors coming from outside Kentucky, planning their trips in advance is crucial now more than ever.

Kentucky travel and tourism businesses and marketing organizations vied for Traverse Awards in 11 categories. A panel of out-of-state tourism industry experts judge the Traverse Awards. Award criteria include concept, creativity, results and impact. A total of 199 entries were submitted from throughout Kentucky for the 2023 competition.

According to KTIA president & CEO Hank Phillips, ”With nearly 200 entries and based on the judges’ comments about the across the board high quality of the entries, the 2023 Traverse competition was as close as it was intense,” added Hank Phillips, KTIA President & CEO.. “The larger picture of the awards is how they reflect the results-oriented talent and creativity that exists throughout Kentucky’s tourism industry. That talent and creativity last year attracted over 75 million Kentucky visitors bringing with them the many benefits tourism provides to the people of the Commonwealth.”

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