GREAT BEND — The Kansas Department of Transportation recently met in Great Bend with members of the local Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway committee to present the unified marketing plan for all of the byways in the state.
"We wanted the people from KDOT to present to the Byways Committee," said Cris Collier, president of the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau. "So, they understand directly."
Originally, the state didn’t have an organized plan for marketing the 10 state byways, and so the local WWNSB which covers 76 miles of Barton and Stafford Counties, was on its own.
In 2009, the local committee received the Scenic Byway Award for Planning sponsored by the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials, Federal Highway Administrations, and America’s Byway Resources Center.
The President of Hargrove International Cheryl Hargrove, said in a letter to Collier. " I think you are a model (and perhaps mentor?) for other Kansas byway organizations because of your structure, outreach, interpretation, funding marketing and sustainability. Kudos to you and everyone involved in making the Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway an exceptional experience."
"This Byway is leading the state and is a benchmark in byway marketing," said Collier. The WWNSB has already put into place an overall marketing plan for each community on the Byway beginning in 2009.
According to Hargrove International Inc., which developed the state’s promotion, the byways will draw additional visitors to the region most efficiently through target marketing to niche audiences. Those audiences are bird watching enthusiasts, cyclists, cultural heritage travelers and RVers/ Campers, which ties in with the target audiences identified in the WWNSB market research.
Niche markets provide the greatest potential for increasing visitation. Kansas Travel and Tourism will then market the entire byway collection.
The state’s 2020 vision statement is to preserve the natural beauty and heritage of Kansas and to deliver authentic, quality experiences that stimulate economic prosperity from tourism and enhance the positive image of Kansas.
Hargrove has visited central Kansas and traveled the WWNSB. "The quality and quantity of the attractions, the interesting and diverse stories found along the Byway and in the towns, the rich heritage and amazing landscapes combine to offer superb visitor experience," she said. "My visits netted great memories and pictures to share with others.
"The WWNSB serves as a model for other designated routes to follow," she added.
The mission of the byways is to provide economic and social benefits to visitors, businesses, government and residents.
According to the Nov. 2009 e-survey conducted by the state, the top activities engaged while traveling the byways were driving, dining, and visiting museums, wildlife refuges, bird watching and shopping.
The state has shown tremendous growth in the number of tourist contacts with scenic byway interest. In 2003, the contacts were 3,342. That number grew to 17, 856 in 2009.
The 2009 demographic, according to Hargrove, of the byway traveler shows the greatest number is between the age of 35 and 64. Almost half completed some college, or is a college graduate, and 46% reported incomes over $50,000.
The Kansan Byway is part of a national movement to offer outstanding scenic, history, natural, cultural, recreation and archaeological values for the traveling public.