2013 slightly stronger tourism year, Go Wichita president reports

07/31/2013 6:25 PM

08/01/2013 7:13 AM

Susie Santo has been president of Go Wichita Convention and Bureau for a year.

The Salina native and longtime Californian has brought tremendous energy and direction to the organization, but it’s still too early to report the results of her major initiatives.

She has commissioned a marketing study to identify who the leisure visitors to Wichita are and what brings them here, a marketing study of how best to use Century II and a redesign of the bureau’s website – all are three to six months off. She’s also part of a group of local leaders who are taking another look at how to better “brand” Wichita; that is, come up with a coherent identity.

“We’re doing things we’ve never done before, getting data that we’ve never had, evaluating how best to tell our story, creating some fantastic market materials,” Santo said. “We are on the verge.”

So far, she reported Wednesday, 2013 has been slightly stronger than 2012 on a broad range of measures, from hosted meetings to website visits. The only exception is future hotel room bookings, which exploded with the landing of the 40,000 room nights of the Women’s Bowling Congress for 2019.

Go Wichita is largely funded by a tax on hotel guests, with some money also coming from membership fees paid by area businesses.

One of the bureau’s jobs is to persuade people to come to Wichita. Once people start looking and listening, they’re amazed at what’s here, she said.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “These sunsets in Kansas, I don’t know if there is anywhere that has more beautiful sunsets than Kansas. But there is lots more to do than people realize: 1,000 restaurants, any type of food you want, we’ve got; 33 museums; one of only 80 opera (companies) in the country.”

The new airport terminal that opens in 2015 will make a big difference.

“The airport is big,” she said. “Your impression of the community starts the minute you land.”

The addition of Southwest and the continued development of downtown are also terrific assets.

By the end of the year, Santo said, she’ll feel more comfortable in launching new initiatives in the future.

“It’s important that you have the data to make database decisions,” she said. “This will allow us to know more about our visitors than we’ve ever known.”

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