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Foreign tourism developing in Barton County
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Travel writer Matt Bates of Scotland and Lisa Weigt, International Program director for Kansas/ Oklahoma Travel and Tourism recently toured Barton County.
“I’m blown away by the Native American (history),” said Bates, who has been in the travel business 40 years. “It’s much more complex. More painful. More hopeful.”
He likens the experiences of the Native Americans to those Scottish highlanders who were displaced to the lowlands by the English.
“I knew there was a strong Scottish/Irish connection,” Bates said. He had never visited these two states.
His first impression was that there was much more variety that he thought. He was particularly impressed with the depth of peace, and the huge sky with starry, dark nights.
“It’s fantastic,” said the travel writer.
“Europeans like to spend time outdoors,” said Weigt. She said they are interested in what’s unique about the area. That includes Native Americans, cowboy’s past and present, and the ecosystem, as well as food/cuisine.
“The cost of our food is inexpensive,” compared to many European countries, said Weigt.
Europeans are comfortable with self-driving. “Current Europeans have been here 5-7 times,” she said. “They are seeking authenticity. They travel independently with comfort.”
Many Europeans speak English.
“The target market is a mature market that is seeking more,” said Weigt.
Bates explained that most Europeans have 4-6 weeks of vacation per year and plan to take it. Their trips are typically 14-21 days long so that they can visit a region adequately.
“Germans pride themselves on exploring and being the first to discover,” said Bates. “Most speak English.”
Weigt’s work is to influence foreign leisure travelers to come to Kansas or Oklahoma. “We want to make it easy for them to tour.”
She said that she has gotten spend reports from credit card companies, and that from 2010-12, German tourism in this state grew 30 percent.
“The trend year after year is definitely going up,” she said.
“It takes a well-travelled person to appreciate what we do have,” said Weigt. “We need to improve the way the different areas in Kansas work together.”