Gather and Go with Brian Jewell

Gather and Go with Brian Jewell

Capitalizing on a Tourism Trend with Sam Lacy

September 13, 2023

Can a tourism trend change a small town for the better?

Sam Lacy believes it can. As executive director of the Bourbon Capital Alliance, Sam is helping his hometown of Bardstown, Kentucky, capitalize on the booming popularity of travel to its bourbon distilleries. He joins this episode of the podcast to explain how the bourbon boom started and how it’s transforming the tourism community in Bardstown.

Sam shares insights on how bourbon’s popularity is changing the demographic makeup of tour groups and how he is working to build healthy collaboration between industry, tourism and the local community. Plus, we have news about how a government shutdown may impact tourism; a Road Tip about making the most of state parks; and a Hot Minute about how the travel industry should react to an uptick in COVID infections.

Insights from Sam Lacy:

On the evolution of bourbon tourism:

“It started with just welcoming people. It started with someone who just came in off the street and asked to look around. And it evolved from there. What you see now are highly curated experiences for all levels of consumer.

“The distilleries have learned to look at all price points. And when they’re building distilleries, they keep the visitor component in mind.”

On tour group composition:

“Our groups are skewing smaller and younger. These groups of four or five 30-year-old guys on a bourbon trip coming and staying in our Airbnbs or hotels.”

“The thing about that type of clientele is it’s got a 40- year runway….  It gives them the opportunity to turn these 30-year-old consumers into lifelong advocates.”

On the relationship between distilleries and the community:

“It’s a symbiotic relationship. The other attractions have embraced the additional traffic because it brings overflow to them… When these folks come, they leave their money here. They eat in our restaurants and browse our shops downtown.”

Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Learn more about the Bourbon Capital Alliance at

Learn more about the Bourbon Capital Academy at

Get our free download Group Games: Riddles for the Road here.

Read our article Stunning State Parks here.

Key Moments From This Episode

1:05 — Travel News: How a government shutdown could impact tourism

2:31 — Road Tip: Making the most of state parks

6:24 — Free Group Games download

11:04 — How Sam Lacy became a Bardstown bourbon ambassador

18:00 — How bourbon distilleries became tourist attractions

25:05 — Integrating bourbon experiences into group tours

30:39 — How the bourbon boom is reshaping tour group demographics

33:08 — How bourbon tourism impacts the community

35:02 — Innovative experiences at the Bourbon Capital Academy

48:40 — Hot Minute: Standing up to the COVID police

About the Podcast

Gather and Go with Brian Jewell is a tourism podcast that helps group travel leaders plan, promote and lead better trips. Each episode reaches thousands of professional tour operators, travel agents and the volunteer group leaders they serve. The audience also includes destination marketers, museum leaders, church travel leaders and other tourism enthusiasts around the world. Each show includes a featured conversation with a smart and influential travel leader. You’ll also hear travel news, road tips and more. New episodes are released about twice monthly.

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