Visit Wichita says tourism is back and on the rebound

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WICHITA, Kan (KSNW) – The home opener of the Wichita Wind Surge is one of several big events the City of Wichita is hoping to capitalize on.

In 2019 before the pandemic, visitors in Wichita spend over $1 billion. During the pandemic, travel spending dropped by 33% across the state. Travel-supported jobs dropped by 6 million.

In about a week, thousands of fans are expected to pack the ballpark in Wichita to watch the city’s new Wind Surge team.

Visit Wichita Convention & Visitors Bureau said these games will pump more money into the city’s economy. WaterWalk Hotel is already seeing the benefit.

“I remember getting an email from my boss and the title was this is not a drill so I knew right then this was serious,” said Mike Marler, the general manager of WaterWalk Hotel and Apartments.

Marler said the pandemic took him by surprise.

“None of us really knew, you know, or could foresee the future and how this was going to impact us,” said Marler.

Marler said last year his hotel rooms were down to about 45% occupancy, but Visit Wichita said tourism is back.

“You know, when we talk about turning the corner when we look at the travel sentiment on a national basis 87% of American travelers say they have plans this summer to take a trip, so that bodes well for Wichita that we can capitalize on that drive market drive people in,” said Susie Santo, the president of Visit Wichita CVB.

Starting next week, Visit Wichita will begin a television ad campaign to attract visitors from other parts of Kansas and Oklahoma.

“It’s all those wonderful things we have to do, whether it’s River Festival or attractions, or even attracting sporting events, those are all really important for the economy because not only can residents enjoy them, but that drives visitors and their dollars,” said Santo.

It’s not just baseball. The director of marketing for Wichita Festivals said typically RiverFest brings about $35 million, and this year, the event will take place in two parts, doubling the opportunity for a potential economic boost.

“That includes people traveling to Wichita stay in hotels eating in restaurants and all of the other kinds of thing people do when they come visit,” said Teri Mott, director of marketing and communication at Wichita Festivals Inc.

Marler said between Riverfest, the Wind Surge, and other planned events, 2021 should put businesses back on track.

“It’s so exciting, I can’t wait,” said Marler.

Marlet said WaterWalk has been full the past two weeks. He said the stadium is already playing a big role in filling those rooms.

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