Louisville Tourism working to find replacement for big convention leaving city

With SkillsUSA, Louisville Tourism said guests in town are in about 50 area hotels

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - America’s future tech workforce is in Louisville this week for the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference.

Thousands of people from all over are staying in just about every single hotel in the area.

At SkillsUSA, the very best in career and technical education for the skilled trades is showcased. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
At SkillsUSA, the very best in career and technical education for the skilled trades is showcased. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

The conference is in Louisville next year as well, but in 2021 it will move to Atlanta. That’s because the organization is growing so much. Louisville’s hotel scene is growing too, but not like other cities.

The SkillsUSA National Conference is the world’s largest hands-on skills competition. Students showcase the very best in career and technical education for the skilled trades. They compete in robotics, engineering technology, auto service, smart home technology, construction, graphic design, photography, esthetics and the medical sciences. The conference starts Monday and runs through Friday.

The convention brings in about 19,000 students, teachers and education leaders to the Louisville area.

“They’ll leave a good economic impact, in fact almost $27 million in our community,” Louisville Tourism President and CEO Karen Williams said.

Many people may look at Louisville and think the city has had so much growth in our hotel industry, and Williams said it has. More than 3,000 hotel rooms have been added in the last two years. Over 1,600 are currently under construction.

The Omni added a big boost to hotel rooms. The others that have popped up are smaller hotels which are great to cover guests in town for Derby, leisure activities like music festivals and bourbon tours.

When Louisville hosts the conference, students are spread out between 50 area hotels, making transportation a big expense. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
When Louisville hosts the conference, students are spread out between 50 area hotels, making transportation a big expense. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

With SkillsUSA, Louisville Tourism said guests in town are in about 50 area hotels.

Transportation is a huge expense for the organization, busing students from one location to the other. In Atlanta, transportation won’t be such an expense because their hotels are much larger and there are more double-bed rooms.

“They’ll probably do it in less than eight (hotels),” Williams said. “And they can do it all downtown. Their transportation charge will be completely taken off.”

Williams says eight hotels versus 50 hotels is a big difference.

What could help in the future? Louisville Tourism said the city needs another hotel close to the Expo Center with 500 plus rooms, meeting space, and food and beverage options. Williams also said the Expo Center is due for an upgrade.

"There are 35 convention centers in the United States being built or renovated or expanded," Williams said. "Right downtown we have done that (with the Kentucky International Convention Center). We have kept up where we need to be, we have to continue to do that with the space at the Expo Center because everyone else is doing it around us."

Louisville Tourism has been working to identify other conferences they can bring into the city since SkillsUSA will leave in 2021.

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