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State expects to see shifts in tourism, travel due to COVID-19

Coronavirus in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – Thursday is National Tourism Day. In Kansas, the multi-billion dollar industry is hurting because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Tourist destinations have shut their doors and have closed to visitors leading up to the busiest times of the year for the industry.

In Topeka, the Evel Knievel Museum is celebrating its third anniversary this month but has been closed since March. Since 2017, it has seen increasing numbers each year.

“This has been a difficult time to kind of have to shut down in the midst of our growth,” Bruce Zimmerman, director of the museum, said.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism said during parts of April, visitor spending was down 80 percent compared to last year.

But they say as restrictions are being loosened, Kansans want to leave the house.

“People are ready to travel again, they want to get out, but they are a little hesitant to do so,” State Tourism Director Bridgette Jobe said. “We are seeing our trends that people want to travel closer to home, they’re probably going to drive, and they’re looking for those wide-open spaces, well Kansas fits that bill really well.”

Zimmerman would like that to translate to more people visiting local destinations.

“We’re hoping that there will be a lot of, kind of pent up demand in people to get out and enjoy life again and that they will come and visit,” Zimmerman said. “This may be a great year to reconsider, hey, maybe it’s a great time to kind of keep your travels local, and reduce your exposure, and why not check off some of those things on the list inside your own state that you might want to see.”

Officials are expecting to see a shift from typical vacations.

“We know that people are exploring new places in Kansas,” Jobe said. “We have so many hidden gems, so many small, out-of-the-way places that you can go and experience in Kansas. I think that people are looking outside of what they normally do, so many times we just look at, let’s go to the theme park, or let’s go to the beach, and those are wonderful, I go to those too, but this year, I think it’s going to be a little bit different.”

Jobe recommended calling ahead to tourist spots before you travel because many places could have different hours than normal.

Zimmerman said the Evel Knievel Museum will clean more often when they open back up and have hand sanitizer for visitors to use.

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