A conversation I had at lunch Saturday afternoon in Shenzhen, China, which, at 12 time zones away, is literally the other site of the world:
"Why have I heard of Louisville?"
"It hosts the Kentucky Derby."
If Louisville were not home to the world's most famous horse race, how would I have answered that question? Mostly likely the question wouldn't have been asked.
One of my biggest gripes about Louisville is locals who gripe about all of our out-of-town guests that first weekend in May.
But hosting one of sports' marquee events does more for the city than bring in tourist dollars on Derby weekend and allow Churchill Downs to make up for the money it loses the rest of the year.
For a few days a year it allows Louisville to bring the sexy to the world stage. Think of it as an annual mini Olympics.
To host an Olympics, bigger, richer and better-known cities than Louisville--like Chicago, Tokyo, Madrid and Rio--subject themselves to a rigorous process that uses both government time and money. And if they win, they take on massive debt to build or renovate the requisite facilities.
And for what? A few weeks in the international spotlight, increased revenue to local business during the two-weeks of the games and the hope of drawing attention to the city as a worthwhile travel destination thereafter.
While Louisville does not have the infrastructure to host an Olympics (or the tax base to build it), the city doesn't need to--the Kentucky Derby advertises the city year after year after year.
Louisville needs to do a better job promoting itself during the run up to the Run for the Roses though. On my trip to Shenzhen, I went with three other travel writers and two industry public relations officials; five people who have traveled all over the world.
But none of them have visited Louisville.
The Greater Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau needs to better position the Ville, upgrading it from a city people have heard about because of the Derby to a city that people have visited because of it.
Hopefully on a future trip to the other side of the world, people won't be asking why they have heard of Louisville, but instead will be talking about their wonderful stay at 21 C Museum and Hotel, visit to the Muhammad Ali Center and drive on the bourbon trail.
For more information: Learn how to make money as a writer, artist or photographer selling your work online.