This week, our DESTINATION : Council Grove office is being (wo-)manned but an incredible crew of volunteers — Cheerie Baker, Karen Lee, Madeline Lee, and Jon Wadick. We are thankful to have a bank of people with the same love for representing Council Grove that we do! It's reassuring to know that our area is well represented by this crew when I am away at conferences (like the TIAK Conference from which I am typing this article).
If you have read my Council Grove Republican articles before, you know that I have lived in many rural areas in various parts of the country. Kansas is a stand-out for so many reasons. The scenic vistas, the FOOD, the people . . . I could go on and on. But, speaking from my position as executive director of the Council Grove Area Trade & Tourism Association, there is something that sings a little louder than other similar entities in other states.
That soprano of a voice that stands out in the crowd (albeit, that crowd is only in my head) in Kansas is Travel KANSAS, under the Department of Commerce. This conference has fomented that opinion.
This is a relatively small department compared to other areas like New York, Florida, North Carolina, and California. But, wow, they are making the right moves for a significant impact.
At this conference, it has been so exciting to see them shine. Their enthusiasm for strategizing, researching, and executing modern and gorgeous marketing was inspiring and fun to witness.
So far, at the TIAK Conference, held in Wichita this year, we reviewed their monumentally successful efforts in 2022 and heard about the dynamic plans for 2023. I appreciate how they hear our industry needs and best practices, incorporating those ideas often while keeping an eye on progressive and modern marketing ideas.
They hear our feedback : "Listings in the back of the Kansas Travel Guide still work!" So they keep them in while they invest in more modern approaches to travel and tourism marketing, like regional concepts and planned online influencer visits.
And the data! So much meaningful and impactful data analysis has been shared. In this spirit, here are a few fun facts that I have learned at this conference that maybe the travel and tourism marketing nerd in you might find interesting . . .
The top destination (outside of Kansas) for those interested in visiting Kansas is Nashville, Tennessee. Businesses, keep those music events coming!
Shopping, Historical Sites, and Visiting State and National Parks are the three biggest reasons people want to visit Kansas. (This means our Flint Hills Trails upgrade is even better news!)
Our prospective visitors are beach lovers (hello, our twin lakes!), foodies, and … pet-lovers! (Are we a dog-friendly community? Sure!)
Authentic, Local Food, Street Food / Food Trucks, and Food & Wine Festivals are what our visitors want to eat. (Check, check, and let's do that last one in 2023!
This is just a taste of the data shared with us that I can use to expand and modify our travel and tourism marketing for Council Grove, Morris County, and the Flint Hills.
My favorite little moment of this conference (so far) was a sweet story shared with our group by Lieutenant Governor David Toland. When the Lt Governor was growing up, his father embarked on an economic development project to relocate and fix up an important historic building in Iola, KS. This project was going to be hard, expensive, and time-consuming.
He asked his father, "Dad, why are you doing this?" Mr. Toland replied, "David, I am doing this because it's good for Iola. Because it will bring in new dollars. Because when a town is down, tourism brings it back."
Let's not lose sight of this concept. Let's keep bringing in those outside dollars because tourism is good for Council Grove.
Lastly, I read this quote somewhere many moons ago, and as I do this work of marketing our area as a destination, I have kept it in the forefront of my mind and will continue to do so . . . "Make those who are near happy and those who are far will come." – Chinese Proverb.
It perfectly captures our work here at the Council Grove Area Trade & Tourism Association and is precisely the approach we have used and continue to use. By supporting and empowering our local community to be its best, we are inevitably bringing in more and more travelers to our area. And you know what's awesome? Every new resident was a visitor first!