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Industry Briefs
A CONVERSATION WITH KENTUCKY STATE LEGISLATOR PAMELA STEVENSON


Q:        Recent research has indicated that the African-American market spends $129. 6 billion annually on domestic and international travel and approximately another $9-10 billon on meetings and convention travel. Does Kentucky have any special initiatives or programs that specifically reach out and promote to this market segment?

A:        Kentucky has   promotions to attract the African-American travel market r   and there is more that we can do. Currently, the state has committed $5 million   to help boost the state's tourism industry by encouraging safe travel to all 120 Kentucky counties.   In addition, a grant was awarded to fund projects as a part of an ongoing effort by state tourism officials to attract new, diverse travel markets. Three projects in Kentucky are receiving $150,000 in federal funding to help preserve African American history. The funding will help projects at Cherokee State Park in Hardin, the Hotel Metropolitan in Paducah and the Palmer Pharmacy Building in Lexington.   We also have to integrate black Kentucky history into Kentucky history.   We have started with   Roots 101 an African American history museum, founded by Lamont Collins.    But there is more history to uncover and develop into tourist attractions, so that tourists and residents   can experience all of Kentucky' s history and what it was like to be Black in Kentucky.

Q:        African-American travelers are drawn to destinations where they are made to feel welcome and their business valued. In view of national reports about the unfortunate killing of Breonna Taylor, in Louisville, what are some of the steps the state of Kentucky has taken, or will take to help address this issue and any concerns it may have spawned regarding your ability to welcome visitors ?

A:        While Louisville is still impacted from the death of Ms. Taylor, the city is safe.   We are still seeking justice for her and working for a Kentucky that works for all people, while welcoming visitors,   Ms. Taylor is now firmly a part of Kentucky's history and her story is housed in the   Roots 101 Museum.   Visit this awarding winning museum and discover Ms. Taylor and the movement that honors her life.  

Q:        You are probably aware that as of July 1, of this year, Cleo Battle became President and CEO of Louisville Tourism. He is one of fewer than 10 African Americans who head a   destination marketing office. What, if any, efforts is Kentucky making to create opportunities for other highly qualified people of color to fill leadership positions in your Travel and Tourism arena?

A:        Congratulations to Mr. Battle! Mr. Battle sees the world of tourism through   a different set of lenses, as he brings his unique set of experiences to the position. He will help us to develop leadership opportunities for others. The history of black Kentuckians must be expanded and expounded upon and where feasible developed into an experience worth traveling for. This is why I am excited to meet him and learn about his vision for Louisville   tourism.

Q:        Louisville is the economic engine of the state and must continue to make sure that   measures are being taken to expand into cultural tourism. This points to the need of developing the story of Black Kentuckians, including destinations that explore the history of Black Kentuckians

A:        Everyone loves their history. It is what makes us   who we are today. We especially love it when our history   is acknowledged and incorporated into the history of the whole. The rich and beautiful history of Kentucky does not include enough of the history of Black Kentuckians.   I am sure when we look back the contributions and challenges faced by black Kentuckians have not been fully acknowledged. For example, I was pleasantly surprised to learn of a small bed and breakfast in rural Kentucky, which catered   to traveling black Kentuckians.   In addition, I attended a ceremony to place   a marker to acknowledge the contributions of Nannie Helen Burroughs to Louisville. Burroughs, a suffragist, educator and leader for gender and racial equality, worked in Louisville.   There is enough history in Kentucky for a rich cultural experience. We   need to develop and promote these people and places.

Q:        African Americans are especially interested in destinations where they can have a rich cultural experience. As the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, what message do you have for a meeting planner who is considering bringing a meeting or convention to Kentucky, or a travel agent who is booking a vacation for his/her client in Kentucky?

A:        Black Kentuckians have a story. We will discover and uplift these stories and places to honor the state's heritage. While there is more work to be done to include the history of Black Kentuckians in the tourism of Kentucky, I invite you to enjoy what we have, while we grow more.   While we are best known for bourbon, food, horses, we are now ALSO known for   Breonna Taylor, the   Roots 101 museum, and   Muhammad Ali. We have a rich story, to include black jockeys,   our response to segregation and the black business community that we built on Old Walnut. Watch us grow Kentucky's tourism, as we honor the contribution and lives of all Kentuckians. Discover this heritage.   Discover the soul of Kentucky.

About Pamela Stevenson

Pamela Stevenson served in the U.S. Air Force for 27 years and reached the rank of colonel. Stevenson earned a J.D. from Indiana University. Her career experience includes working as an adjunct professor with the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law and Air Force JAG School, as a professional leadership consultant, and founding a law firm.  Stevenson is a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, representing District 43. She assumed office on January 1, 2021. Her current term ends on December 31, 2022.

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