Wichita popular with city’s visitors, tourism study finds

Wichita skyline made from 8 individual photographs.   (Feb. 5, 2013)
Wichita skyline made from 8 individual photographs. (Feb. 5, 2013) The Wichita Eagle

Wichita’s visitors like the city. They come back more than once, for day trips, to visit family and friends and to enjoy the city’s entertainment culture.

Those are the preliminary conclusions of a year-long visitor profile study by Go Wichita that sought to pinpoint why people come to the city. The survey was distributed to out-of-towners, at spots such as hotels.

The results will form the foundation for the city’s intensifying efforts to bring visitors to town to see a ballgame, hit the River Festival, see a concert, watch a movie, go shopping, eat out and spend a night in a hotel – a $1-billion-a-year business, according to tourism officials.

The profile was rolled out Thursday as part of the convention and tourism group’s annual meeting at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.

Susie Santo, who has led Go Wichita for 16 months, gave the assembled business leaders, elected officials and tourism partners a mission statement for her bureau’s work:

“If we can get them here, we can win them over,” she said.

About 6 million people annually visit the Wichita Metropolitan Statistical Area – Sedgwick, Harvey, Butler and Sumner counties. Nearly half – 47.5 percent – come for a leisure day trip that doesn’t involve an overnight stay.

Another large group – 33.5 percent – come to visit friends and family, generally staying in homes. The remaining 19 percent use the city’s hotels. Of those groups, 20 percent of the visitors are here for festivals, events and concerts.

Wichita draws repeat visitor business, Santo said: 81 percent of the city’s visitors have been here at least twice in the last two months; 84 percent of the city’s hotel visitors have been before.

And they liked it here: 95 percent were either very satisfied or satisfied with their experience in Wichita, and 98 percent of them intend to return.

The study was applauded by the group’s governmental funding partners.

“Quite clearly they’ve done some absolutely excellent work finding out who our customers are,” Mayor Carl Brewer said after the meeting. “It’s a tremendous starting point in growing our business of bringing people to Wichita.”

“The level of detail they’ve assembled about the people who come here is very impressive,” Sedgwick County Commission Chairman Dave Unruh said. “It can’t help but enhance our tourism efforts.”

Maintaining those efforts is essential, Commissioner Jim Skelton said.

“I can’t even imagine the jobs involved if this is a $1-billion-a-year business,” he said.

The Go Wichita group also honored several members, highlighted by its lifetime achievement award to Bobbi Hansen of Sunflower Travel and its distinguished service award to Matt Dolan, general manager of the Hilton Garden Inn.

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