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Murrel BlandMurrel Bland
A recent article in Business Travel News reported the demand for hotel rooms in the United States last December reached an all-time high with 91.7 million nights. And predictions through 2016 for room demand are expected to show an increase.
I wanted to know what the situation was and probably will be locally. So I talked to Bridgette Jobe, the executive director of the Kansas City, Kansas, Convention and Visitors Bureau. She said room nights here for 2012 were up about 4 percent compared to 2011. And she looks for even a better 2013.
Jobe said tourism has finally caught up with the levels it saw before the recession that hit the country in 2009.
One of the major factors boosting Wyandotte County tourism is its family friendly nature. She said Mom can shop at Nebraska Furniture Mart, Dad can go to Cabela’s and the kids can enjoy the Great Wolf Lodge.
“We target family visitors from up to 400 miles who drive here,” Jobe said. She said that includes areas such as Des Moines, Iowa, and Omaha Neb.
The bureau is funded by an eight-cent sales tax that is added on visitors’ hotel bills. That generates $640,000 annually. In addition, the agency received $25,000 in revenue from the Hollywood Casino this year.
An estimated 12 million people visit the Village West area annually which puts it in the same league with the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. A typical family of three stays two to three nights and spends about $236.
The bureau used to be a division of the Kansas City, Kan., Area of Commerce. However, in 2010 it became an independent agency and moved its offices to the former Kansan building at 908 N. Eighth St. downtown.
Visitors come here for sports events at the Kansas Speedway, the Sporting Kansas City soccer arena and the Kansas City T-Bones baseball stadium; however, Jobe said many others come here to visit family and friends.
Jobe works closely with Kansas state efforts including Becky Blake who is the director of Kansas tourism. She said the recent move of the agency from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Wildlife and Parks was a good one.
Jobe serves on Gov. Sam Brownback’s advisory committee on tourism and works closely with allied trade groups including the Tourism Industry Association of Kansas and the Kansas I-70 Association.
The growth of Village West during the past 15 years has been phenomenal. Several excellent hotels serve the area. What is lacking is a hotel with a convention center.
There are several Kansas organizations, particularly trade associations, that would like to come to Kansas City, but would prefer to meet in Kansas. These usually are smaller and medium-sized groups.
There has been discussion that there could be a hotel and convention center next to the Hollywood Casino. However, according to a casino representative who attended a recent Village West Marketing and Security Committee meeting, there are no plans for such a development. Possibly someone else might fill that need.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.