Tourists return to Owensboro as events go back on the calendar


OWENSBORO, Ky. (WEHT) – Tourists are starting to make their way back to Owensboro as the region’s tourism industry works on its rebound.

It happens as many events that were canceled or postponed last year return this year.

For nearly 120 visitors, cruising on the American Duchess this week, their trip went from the Ohio River to the streets of Owensboro.

“Everyone’s been really nice and it’s been great,” said John and Sandy Deluca, visiting Owensboro from Raleigh, North Carolina. “We met some folks we’ve gotten to know and like a lot.” It’s one of several stops they’re making while on the American Duchess, and one of their first trips since getting vaccinated.

“We still know people that don’t want to leave their houses yet, but we’re hoping their numbers will shrink. The country needs people to get back out,” said John.

The American Duchess’s stop in Owensboro, one of six happening this year involving riverboats after cancelling last year, is the latest thing tourism officials hope brings or will bring visitors back to Owensboro. Hotel occupancy rates went from more than 50% in 2019, to a little more than 36% t last year.

“Last year, just like everybody, we were hit the same way,” said Chris Gendek of Visit Owensboro. Gendek also says the return of other events including the International Bar-B-Q Festival and Friday After Five, and new events like the Owensboro HydroFair, which was postponed last year, could help bring people back and start momentum to improving the tourism economy.

“This is, kind of, a kickoff to rebuilding,” he said. “We’re glad to welcome everybody here to our community, showing them what we have to offer, showing them everything that we’ve rebranded and rebuilt during the pandemic.”

Gendek also says they expect to have a record breaking April this year.

(This story was originally published on April 30, 2021)

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