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Kentucky Derby 147 brings millions of tourism dollars to Louisville

WAVE Louisville logo WAVE Louisville 5/6/2021 Nick Picht
a couple of people that are talking to each other: Legendary photographer Dan Dry shared his Derby Week images with WAVE 3 News again this year. © Provided by WAVE Louisville Legendary photographer Dan Dry shared his Derby Week images with WAVE 3 News again this year.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - While the horses raced around the track and the mint juleps flowed like water, business in Louisville was finally booming.

Despite COVID-19 restrictions, Kentucky Derby 147 was able to generate $35 million in estimated economic impact. The local hotel industry, which usually sells out from Thursday through Sunday, was forecast to hit a 65% occupancy rate, according to Louisville Tourism.

“It really got close to what normal used to be,” Olé Hospitality Group Chief Operation Officer Rick Moir said.

Moir operates several restaurants in Louisville, including Steak & Bourbon and La Bordeguita de Mima. He said all of the restaurants he oversees were packed through the weekend.

“We were full,” Moir said. “We had no reservations. We were sliding people in any way we could.”

Downtown, the Omni Hotel also felt the uptick from Derby. Director of Sales and Marketing Todd Piety said the hotel operated at roughly 50% occupancy during Derby weekend. Piety said he’s hopeful the team can ride that momentum through the second half of 2021.

“That same type of momentum we’re going to see, and we believe, based on what we have on the books, that it’s going to be a strong year,” Piety said.

Prior to the pandemic, Derby weekend generated roughly $400 million in economic impact. However, for more than a year, COVID-19 limited travel and spending across the United States.

Now, as spring turns to summer, and restrictions continue to ease, restaurants, bars, and hotels across the city already have their sights set on next year’s ‘Run for the Roses.’

“I think if it looks anything like what it has in some of the past weekends that we’ve had, where we have been close to selling out some of those weekends, it’s going to look just like that,” Piety said.

Louisville Tourism has several upcoming events for summer 2021, including outdoor music with 15 “Live on the Lawn at Waterfront Park Concert Series” shows. Bourbon & Beyond and Louder Than Life are also scheduled for Sept. 23-26 at the Highland Festival Grounds at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Copyright 2021 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.


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