Go Wichita nearly doubling its 2015 budget

Susie Santo, president and CEO of Go Wichita
Susie Santo, president and CEO of Go Wichita File photo

Go Wichita Convention and Visitors Bureau is nearly doubling its budget for 2015 as the first year of new taxes to bolster local tourism roll in.

Earlier this year, the city approved a Tourism Business Improvement District ordinance that collects a 2.75 percent fee per night on hotels with more than 50 rooms. The money would go to Go Wichita to promote tourism to Wichita.

On Tuesday, the Wichita City Council approved Go Wichita’s regular budget of nearly $2.4 million for 2015. Go Wichita anticipates that the improvement district tax will bring it an additional $2.3 million each year.

“This will allow increased funding to market the city at unprecedented levels,” said Susie Santo, president and CEO of Go Wichita.

“In fact, next summer will be our first ever 11-week campaign in the marketplace. This will include dedicated television, radio, print and digital (advertising).”

The ordinance will run through 2023, and the ordinance establishes a seven- to nine-member advisory board, which will review and approve Go Wichita’s marketing plan every year.

In previous years, about 88 percent of Go Wichita’s yearly budget has come from city allocations, which are collected by the city from hotel stays, Santo said.

Santo told the council that in 2013, visitors spent just more than $1 billion in the Wichita area, an increase of 3.75 percent over 2012. That figure outpaced the national average of a 2.8 percent increase over the prior year, she said.

As part of the City Council’s approval of Go Wichita’s contract, the city and Go Wichita will work in the first part of the year to create transparency disclosure guidelines

The guidelines, spurred by criticism over a lack of transparency among government-funded entities – particularly leading up to the defeat of a 1-cent city sales tax in November – may eventually also apply to entities like the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation and the Greater Wichita Economic Development Coalition.

The city started funding convention activities in 1976, said City Manager Robert Layton. The Chamber of Commerce was the convention vendor from 1976 to 1980, when an independent convention and visitors bureau was established.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.