Agents Saddle Up at Connect Kentucky

Kentucky was the latest stop for our Selling Travel Connect events, with agents coming together at the Caledonian Club in London on March 7 for an immersive evening highlighting the best of the southeastern state. 

Suppliers in attendance were Kentucky Tourism, Visit Lex, Louisville Tourism and Visit Cincy.

Agents got a taste of the Bluegrass State in the form of its finger-licking’ good Kentucky Fried Chicken and a bourbon-making masterclass from Heaven Hill Distillery‘s Whiskey Jean.

The virtual derby was the highlight of the night, with agents placing their bets on their favourite steeds and cheering them across the finish line.

Celebrations galore

Clients can look forward to the 150th anniversary of the famous Kentucky Derby, underscored Louisville Tourism’s Jessica Morgan. The Director of Tourism Development said: “On the first Saturday of May, we’ll have the running of the roses, which will celebrate 150 years. It’s the longest-running consecutive sporting event in the United States. Plus, it’s famed after the Epsom Derby in the UK.”

Chenelle McGee, International & Domestic Director at Kentucky Tourism, wanted to highlight the state’s “incredible” outdoor scene. She added: “Our park system is celebrating its 100th anniversary. These free State Parks have an array of RV sites and are perfect for clients who are interested in family or individual travel. Check out Cumberland Falls, the only Moonbow in the Northern Hemisphere, go kayaking in one of our cave systems or take a hike up Red River Gorge.”

This August also marks the 125th anniversary of the Cincinnati Open, according to Senior Manager: International and Domestic Communications Maija Zumma at Visit Cincy. “It’s one of America’s oldest and largest tennis tournaments — a hotspot for big names in tennis.”

Culture crush

Anne Hardy, Executive Director of Visit Horse Country, was representing Lexington. She said: “At Visit Horse Country, we help clients book visits to all of the major horse farms in the Bluegrass region. Travellers can also find up-and-coming musical and culinary events in the city. There’ll be a few new boutique hotels popping up too, which will be available with receptive operators.” 

There are plenty of festivals to anticipate in Cincinnati, according to Maija. “We have just been ranked the number one best city in America for street art. This coincides with the return of BLINK, which is America’s largest art, light and projection mapping festival. It’s a free event that takes place every other October, with more than two million people coming to the Cincy region to see it. International artists activate our murals, historic buildings and light sculptures. It takes over 30 blocks of Cincinnati across Northern Kentucky.”

London clients looking to fly to Cincinnati can opt for a direct British Airways flight, which started operations last year. Those in Paris can find routes from Charles de Gaulle airport flying seven days a week, with a direct flight starting in May.

Louisville, meanwhile, is kicking off a series of musical events called LouGrass in April. Jessica Morgan added: “It’s a celebration of all kinds of music based on the Bluegrass style, including Americana, the roots of country music. There will be folklore tunes, too.

“This October, we’re also launching a new state-wide event, Bourbon and Belonging. It is a queer bourbon week for LGBTQ+ community, with eight city partners coming in from across the state to create programming. There’ll be distillery tours, dinners, drag brunches and more.”

Lesser-known region

David Nicholson from Kentucky Tourism UK said: “I’ve been attending the Selling Travel Connect events on and off over the years, but I think they’ve taken on a greater importance since Covid. It’s great to see the agents get a taste of Kentucky, which is a tremendous destination. There is a remarkable amount of things to do and see, but it’s relatively unknown in the UK.”

Independent travel agent Kerry Elliot added: “I’m not too familiar with Kentucky. Clients have been asking for more information on the region, including Cincinnati, so it is useful to learn more about the destination.”