Kentucky Bourbon Trail® Campaign Wins Prestigious Tourism Award

November 28, 2023

“Book, Now, Bourbon Later” Marketing Campaign Takes Home the Gold Traverse Award for Tourism Excellence

For Immediate Release – November 28, 2023

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) announced today that the legendary Kentucky Bourbon Trail® (KBT™) has received a Traverse Award for Excellence in Kentucky Tourism from the Kentucky Travel Industry Association. The award was presented during the 2023 Kentucky Travel Industry Annual Conference held November 8-10 at the Sloan Convention Center in Bowling Green.

The Kentucky Bourbon Trail® received a Gold Traverse for its “Book Now, Bourbon Later” digital marketing campaign. 

“We are thrilled to receive this Traverse Award,” said Mandy Ryan, Director of Kentucky Bourbon Trail Experiences. “ The Kentucky Bourbon Trail and our member distilleries strive to improve the visitor experience in our state everyday– it’s wonderful to be recognized for our efforts.”

The “Book Now, Bourbon Later” campaign was created in 2022 in response to the surge in tourism coming out of the pandemic when most distilleries were facing new challenges in the hospitality space. Challenges include guests showing up without tour reservations, decreased guest numbers per tour, rerouting of tour paths to avoid sensitive production areas, staffing shortages and burnout, and the generally cranky and underprepared “revenge tourists.” The digital campaign was launched with three main goals:

  • Shift public perceptions away from the belief that distillery tours are walk-in experiences.
  • Position KBT™ distilleries as world-class tourism destinations requiring reservations.
  • Educate visitors on why booking reservations is the best way to ensure optimal distillery experiences.

“Based on data from our booking software partners at AnyRoad, in Q2 of 2022, visitors were booking tours about 12 days in advance.” reported KDA President Eric Gregory, “By Q4, they were booking tours 35-37 days in advance. That’s a big change!”

“The overall campaign drove tourists to take action and become part of the Kentucky Bourbon community.  It served as a brand awareness campaign, putting the Kentucky Bourbon Trail in front of 378K people more than 1.3 million times, continuing to build the Bourbon economy in communities across the Commonwealth,” continued Gregory.

The KDA created the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® tour in 1999 to give visitors an intimate, educational look behind the state’s most historic distilleries. The Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® launched in 2012 as the first excursion in the country to showcase smaller distilleries.

Bourbon Trail™ tourists made a record 2.1 million distillery visits last year, the first time the KBT® experiences eclipsed two million in total attendance in its history. In the last 10 years, attendance throughout the iconic journey has skyrocketed a phenomenal 370%.

With more than 75% of KBT® visitors coming from outside Kentucky, planning their trips in advance is crucial now more than ever.

Kentucky travel and tourism businesses and marketing organizations vied for Traverse Awards in 11 categories. A panel of out-of-state tourism industry experts judge the Traverse Awards.  Award criteria include concept, creativity, results and impact. A total of 199 entries were submitted from throughout Kentucky for the 2023 competition.

According to KTIA president & CEO Hank Phillips, ”With nearly 200 entries and based on the judges’ comments about the across the board high quality of the entries, the 2023 Traverse competition was as close as it was intense,” added Hank Phillips, KTIA President & CEO.. “The larger picture of the awards is how they reflect the results-oriented talent and creativity that exists throughout Kentucky’s tourism industry. That talent and creativity last year attracted over 75 million Kentucky visitors bringing with them the many benefits tourism provides to the people of the Commonwealth.”

The Kentucky Travel Industry Association represents and serves all segments of Kentucky’s tourism industry, which despite the pandemic’s severe impact, contributed $12.9 billion to Kentucky’s economy in 2022. The nearly 1000-member association engages in advocacy and provides its members with education, information and business development opportunities. The association also works to inform the public of the enormous economic, employment and tax revenue contributions tourism makes to the people of Kentucky.  

– 30 –

For more information about the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®, contact: Mandy Ryan, Director of Kentucky Bourbon Trail Experiences (859) 326-0149 or [email protected].

For more information about the Kentucky Travel Industry Association, contact Hank Phillips, President/CEO, at (502) 223-8687 or [email protected].

Founded in 1880, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association is the legendary voice for Kentucky’s signature Bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Its diverse and growing membership produces the overwhelming majority of the world’s Bourbon, from historic, global brands to emerging micro distilleries that are fostering the next generation of the Commonwealth’s landmark economic engine and its thriving, timeless craft. Member benefits include media relations, international trade development, private sampling events, technical assistance, economic development support, networking, legal defense, marketing strategies, governmental and regulatory advocacy and innovative tourism experiences through the KDA’s world-famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail® and Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour® adventures. A 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization, the KDA maintains an open membership policy, champions a strong commitment to the responsible and moderate consumption of spirits, and fights to curb underage drinking and drunk driving. Learn more at and 

KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL®, KENTUCKY BOURBON TRAIL CRAFT TOUR®, KENTUCKY BOURBON AFFAIR™, KBT®, BOURBON TRAIL™ and KENTUCKY BOURBON HALL OF FAME® are trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Enjoy Bourbon like a true Kentuckian –  Responsibly.

Enjoy Like a True Kentuckian: Responsibly