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Kentucky Derby 148 brings millions of dollars into Louisville, city estimates

Kentucky Derby weekend typically generates $400 million in revenue each year.
Kentucky Derby weekend typically generates $400 million in revenue each year.(WAVE 3 News)
Published: May. 9, 2022 at 4:40 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Following two years of cancelled and pandemic-restricted Kentucky Derbies, this year thousands of visitors came out to Churchill Downs in full force to watch the 148th Run for the Roses.

Louisville Tourism is in the process of calculating how much revenue this year’s Derby generated, but a typical Derby weekend brings in around $400 million, making it Louisville’s biggest revenue generator of the year.

This year there were around 147,000 spectators at the track on Derby day, down from Churchill’s initial estimate of 170,000.

Despite that, Louisville Tourism’s vice president of marketing and communications, Stacey Yates told WAVE News some of this year’s pre-Derby numbers beat records from 2019.

The week of Derby, hotels were 90% full city-wide and 96% full downtown. In 2019 when the city experienced record tourism rates, hotels were 80% full during Derby week.

In addition, Louisville Tourism expected a good Derby turnout in April after noticing a 45% increase in traffic to gotolouisville.com, the city’s website for visitors, compared to 2019.

Yates said businesses throughout Louisville depend on Derby weekend, and many were packed and booked up this year.

“This goes to of course corporations that own hotels and things like that, but it’s also the frontline workers,” Yates said. “This is a big time for people to make money in the city. Everything from ride shares, to people selling cigars, to the hat makers. It generates a big spend.”

Derby weekend doesn’t just help support Louisville businesses. It also saves locals money in taxes, according to Yates.

The average household saves around $800 in taxes annually thanks to revenue generated by tourism, according to Louisville Tourism.

Yates told WAVE News the big Derby numbers indicate a strong summer when it comes to tourism. The city is now preparing for other revenue-generating events including Abbey Road on the River.

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