I had the opportunity yesterday to testify at two legislative committee meetings for the Travel Industry Association of Kansas (TIAK). TIAK is leading the charge to support a change in structure for the state tourism office. If the state tourism office was a quasi-independent organization it would have more flexibility and stability, potentially more funding, and the ability to partner better with all those that have a stake in tourism. The new structure, if adopted, would still require legislative oversight and it would receive funding from the state. There is much work to do for this to get through both the Senate and House.
My role is to represent rural communities in these hearings -- and what a pleasure that is! I describe what various towns have to offer and elaborate that we'd sure like more people to know about these places. Now, don't worry. We don't want the essence of these towns to change but believe that a few more visitors a day would sure help the sustainability of rural communities. I'm confident the state tourism office would be more able to market rural communities if the flexibility and funding was available. Currently, Kansas is 46th (I think) in the ranking of state tourism marketing budgets.
Budget Committee Chair Dwayne Umbarger (from Thayer) asked what we did in Stark recently. He said "everybody's talking about it." His comment allowed me to briefly explain the "Bring Your Own Lawn Chair" events and specifically the success in Stark.
For everyone that visits small towns, writes about them, or sees their value, just know that this is appreciated and helping making a shift. Gradually, that cogwheel is turning and with legislative approval we are hoping to change the structure of tourism in this state and be able to work with the state tourism office to better market the explorer type places in Kansas.