At its annual meeting, Visit Wichita celebrated 38 years as the city’s destination marketing organization by sharing highlights from 2017 and focus areas for 2018.
In 2017, more than six million people visited Wichita, contributing more than $1 billion in economic impact to the greater Wichita area and supporting more than 12,500 jobs. Visit Wichita hosted 527 meetings, conventions and events, accounting for $47 million of economic impact alone.
“Tourism is an industry that is serious about being an economic driver for our community, bringing in total more than $1 billion annually in the Wichita MSA for the fourth year in a row,” said Visit Wichita President and CEO Susie Santo.
Updated vision and mission statements were revealed as a preview of thing to come in 2018, along with concentrated initiatives such as forming a meeting planner advisory group and a launching a sports sales strategy. “We’re so dedicated to making Wichita a ‘must-visit’ Midwest destination that we’ve made it our official vision statement,” said Santo. “Whether it’s a leisure traveler getting away on vacation or a convention goer attending a major event – we want Wichita to be ‘that’ place travelers can’t pass up.”
Facilities and attractions that have the potential to attract visitors in 2018 – Stryker sports complex, Design Build Fly at Exploration Place and the dinosaur theme park coming to Derby – were featured and the future of Wichita was discussed by a panel consisting of Jeff Longwell, Mayor of Wichita; Jeff Fluhr, president at Greater Wichita Partnership; Ben Hutton, CEO of Hutton Construction, and Moji Rosson, vice president of Sales at Visit Wichita.
In addition, Visit Wichita announced Tourism Awards to partners who contributed significantly to hospitality and tourism in the Wichita area in 2017.
- Innkeeper of the Year recognizes hoteliers who have gone above and beyond the call of duty with clients, Visit Wichita and the community. Wichita Marriott Hotel received this award for consistently going above and beyond with meeting and convention guests as well as rolling out the red carpet for countless site tours for meeting planners considering Wichita for their events. The team, led by Michele Ruffin Stein, receives rave reviews from clients and visitors alike.
- Destination Promotion acknowledges an individual, attraction or company that has made outstanding efforts to promote Wichita. Exploration Place hit it out of the park in 2017 with the new Design Build Fly exhibit, giving Wichita a truly unique aviation attraction that can’t be found in any other community. It’s the most extensive exhibit renovation since the science center opened 17 years ago, and helps bring Wichita’s aviation heritage to life for the world to see.
- Corporate Partnership goes to an organization that has done outstanding work in promoting the tourism industry in partnership with Visit Wichita. Bob and Sue Boewe, owners of The Spice Merchant, are this year’s honorees. From helping with gifts for National Travel and Tourism Week and sales initiatives to hosting travel writers from around the globe, Bob and Sue are willing to work with Visit Wichita to showcase their locally owned business in our industry and tell the Wichita story.
- The Distinguished Service award recognizes an individual who has significantly given of their time in making Wichita a better place for visitors and residents. Wichita State University’s Brad Pittman was a driving force to hosting NCAA’s men’s basketball rounds 1 & 2 in Wichita. He is responsible for everything from officials and players to food offerings, trademarks and budgets. Brad is a driving force to ensuring a successful tournament in Wichita this March.
- Hometown Hero honors an organization or individual who was instrumental in assisting the sales team in bringing a meeting or event to Wichita. Michael Monteferrante of Envision, Inc. has been an advocate not only of Visit Wichita but also of the Wichita community. While the organization’s annual meeting had always been hosted outside of Wichita, Michael was instrumental in securing the 2018 event for Wichita. With the support of our staff, his town and great team, Michael will help demonstrate Wichita’s hospitality to leaders from across the nation who help the blind create meaningful paths to independent living.
- Lifetime Achievement is a rarely given honor that recognizes an individual with an unsurpassed commitment to Wichita’s travel and hospitality industry. Jim and Sherri Fouts of Tanganyika Wildlife Park have made a lasting impact on the Wichita area with their love and investment in animals. Jim began his career as a keeper at the Sedgwick County Zoo in 1972. They bought five acres in Goddard in 1985, beginning tours in what was their own backyard in 2000. By 2004, more than 4,000 people were visiting and the vision for a world-class facility on 51 acres began. They are now world leaders in breeding rare and endangered species at one of the largest family-owned zoos in the country.
“Our partnerships with local tourism professionals, such as the outstanding partners highlighted with awards this year, make Wichita a unique and must-visit Midwest destination,” said Santo. “They are a source of pride for us and they help to make it possible to not only market our great city to visitors, but to bring them in and experience Wichita for themselves.”
About Visit Wichita
Visit Wichita markets the Greater Wichita area and advocates for the city as a destination, increasing travel and tourism as a key economic driver for the city, county, region and state. Visit Wichita is led by president and CEO Susie Santo, and in 2017 travel and tourism contributed more than $1 billion in economic impact to the greater Wichita area.