Susie Santo: Visit Wichita ad campaign brings big returns for city

Susie Santo, president and CEO of Visit Wichita
Susie Santo, president and CEO of Visit Wichita Courtesy photo

When I ask locals how much they think visitors spend annually in the Wichita area, some guess $50 million or $100 million. I love sharing that, according to research provided by the U.S Travel Association, visitors spent more than $1.055 billion in the Wichita area in 2014.

Most people are shocked that visitors are such big contributors to our economy. Those dollars were spent at hotels, restaurants, retail shops, attractions, convenience stores, etc. That visitor spending supported more than 12,500 jobs and generated $95.7 million in state and local taxes to help fund programs that are essential to our residents.

Our role at Visit Wichita is to market Wichita to potential visitors to drive even more visitation and ultimately more dollars into the Wichita area. This past year was a game changer in how we tell the Wichita story. For the first time, we launched a multiplatform campaign utilizing television, radio, social media, digital advertisements, outdoor digital billboards and print to inspire a visit to Wichita.

$1.055 billion spent by visitors in 2014 in the Wichita area

12,500jobs supported by visitors

$95.7 million in state and local taxes generated by visitors

The results are in, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. Visitors saw the ads and responded. Not only did our campaign inspire incremental travel, visitors who saw the ads stayed longer and did more while they were here and, in fact, spent 52 percent more per trip than those who didn’t see the ads. That means more dollars coming into the Wichita economy. In addition, those who saw the ads expressed a much greater interest in visiting in the future, and their overall perceptions of Wichita changed positively.

We will continue in 2016 to spread the Wichita message outside Wichita and to drive visitors to our wonderful city. We need your help. There has been a lot of talk this past year about residents’ negative perceptions of Wichita. But things are beginning to change. Grassroots efforts are popping up encouraging residents to share their civic pride and to spread the word as to why we love Wichita.

You may wonder why someone who promotes visitation to Wichita cares so much about our internal perception.

There are two reasons. First, many visitors come to Wichita to visit friends and families. When they visit, they shop, dine out and contribute to the Wichita economy. How are we speaking to our own friends and family about our city? Are we sharing all of the wonderful things happening in our own backyard? All of us have the opportunity to be ambassadors and share what makes Wichita great.

The second reason is more personal. My husband and I chose to live in Wichita. We were not raised here, yet we chose Wichita to raise our daughter and to call home. There is a lot to be proud of and a lot to love about Wichita. I want to see Wichita grow and thrive for the next generation.

Visitors tell us all the time that they have a wonderful time in Wichita. So, if you are wondering what to do this weekend, I would invite you to experience Wichita as a visitor. Get out and see all that is happening in your own backyard and then share your stories with your friends, your family and your neighbors.

Be a part of the movement!

Susie Santo is president and CEO of Visit Wichita. You can reach her at 316-265-2800 or at