LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - New state tourism figures reveal Louisville is the state's leading gateway and economic engine, helping rake in billions of dollars in tourism spending.
Figures from the Kentucky Department of Tourism show tourists dug deep and spent more than $15 billion in Kentucky in 2017. That is nearly a 4 percent increase from 2016.
In a year, Louisville typically sees about 16.4 million visitors -- more than a hundred times the number of people at the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Jefferson County was at the top of the tourism surge with $3.5 billion in tourism spending.
"As we grow, it definitely grows throughout the state and throughout the county," Convention and Visitors Bureau President Karen Williams-Goetz said.
The numbers grew at a time when the city's convention center had been closed for renovations. Williams-Goetz said plans were made two and a half years ago to spend more money attracting leisure travelers from a 300 mile radius.
Music festivals including Forecastle, Bourbon and Beyond and Louder Than Life drew large crowds. And the number of bourbon attractions continued to increase.
"I love to position Kentucky as -- we are the front porch of the south and the gateway to the midwest," Kentucky Tourism Commissioner Kristen Branscum said. "And I think Louisville is kind of that perfect gateway."
And as that gateway, Louisville is making it easier for people to explore the rest of the state. Add in a hotel building boom and a nationally recognized foodie scene -- it's an apparent recipe for success.