Guest Column: Brand USA Spurs Travel to Kansas

It’s no secret that the travel and tourism industry in Kansas is booming. As tourists look for destinations between the coasts, travelers from all over the world are finding their way to the Great Plains.

With a vibrant resurgence in Kansas City, rich Native American history and authentic culture, Kansas has become a sought-out destination.

These trends are as apparent as ever in our local and state economies. Travel to our state directly correlates to an increase in revenue and jobs.

Statewide, travelers spend $10 billion in Kansas which translates into 94,000 jobs.

Even more stark are the benefits tourism produces for our local economy in metro Kansas City.

For the seventh straight year, visitor spending has grown in KC and is now at $3.4 billion.

One in 19 Kansas City area workers owe their jobs to the travel and tourism industry and with the steady growth in visitors, the Kansas economy is stronger now than it has been in over a decade.

These positive trends did not just appear, local travel leaders have worked hard with our elected officials to support and pass pro-travel polices that attract and welcome foreign visitors to Kansas.

One such program which has made a significant impact on Kansas is Brand USA, the United States’ tourism marketing arm.

Created in 2010, Brand USA works to advertise U.S. destinations abroad, with the goal of bringing high-spending international visitors to our country.

The result speaks for itself. For every dollar put into Brand USA, the return is $27 back to the U.S. economy.

In less than a decade, this program is responsible for bringing 50,000 new U.S. jobs annually and providing $38 billion in economic impact. All of this and the program costs not one dime to U.S. taxpayers, it is clear tourism promotion works.

The most unique aspect of Brand USA is what it means to places like Kansas.

When marketing the U.S., it’s easy to think that places like New York or Los Angeles would be the focus, but Brand USA was designed to support destinations in between the coasts as well, making it affordable and easier for places like Kansas to market abroad.

Without Brand USA, we would never be able to reach the Canadian, UK, and German markets that now make up a significant share of our visitors.

These travelers are spending more, staying longer and making their impact in Kansas. Brand USA makes a concerted effort to showcase lesser known destinations which it critical for Kansas as we try to grow our share of the international visitors.

Just take a look on their website, where Kansas is featured with top BBQ joints, along the Pony Express National Historic Trail, and as an authentic “Wild West” experience.

Specifically, in 2014 Brand USA marketed the “Great American Road Trip” to international visitors, highlighting different ways to see the country.

Kansas was included in a feature on the Oregon Trail, presenting an opportunity to market to visitors that we would otherwise never have been able to reach.

It’s programs like this that will keep our tourism economy growing and Brand USA means big business for lesser-known destinations, Kansas cannot afford to lose this partnership.

We believe strongly that our representatives in D.C. need to appreciate just how critical Brand USA and tourism promotion is for our growing economies. With our eyes on the future, we must sustain the trend of increased visitation to realize the economic benefits it produces.

-Kevin Fern is the executive director of Visit Shawnee; Bridgette Jobe is the executive director of Kansas City Kan. Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc.

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