When Linda DiMario set to work on a marketing plan for Great Bend, her best ideas came naturally.
Nature and birding are dominant themes for Great Bend’s top tourism attractions, DiMario said Friday as she presented her plan. "Underdeveloped opportunities exist in almost every corner."
DiMario, with DiMario & Associates in Long Beach, Calif., is a specialist in destination marketing and economic development strategies. She has completed a 100-page plan for the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau, and reported on the highlights during a luncheon that included people from CVG, the City of Great Bend, Chamber of Commerce and others.
In marketing Great Bend as a destination, the goal is to attract people from 100 miles away or more, focusing on people in Kansas and its bordering states, and entice them to spend at least one night here. The plan uses partnerships that work with the city’s primary attractions and its natural assets.
Cheyenne Bottoms is the area’s biggest attraction, and Great Bend is the best place on the Wetlands & Wildlife National Scenic Byway for providing all of the amenities tourists want, DiMario said. With respect to other towns on the byway, from Stafford to Hoisington, Great Bend is the hub, and will be the major traffic generator to the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, she said.
She suggested expanding the Wings & Wetlands festival with events that will draw thousands of people. They can be simple things, such as downtown sidewalk art, or a bird-nest hairstyle contest. DiMario also showed a 4-foot-tall "birdhouse" work of art that will be going in a window at Cornerstone Interiors on Main Street. If other businesses and people throughout the city put up their own birdhouse art, it can become something that people will enjoy and remember.
The marketing plan lists specific travel publications that Great Bend should be featured in, and not just with tiny ads, DiMario said. The goal is to make nature photographers, birders and others associate Great Bend with its natural attractions. The plan also attempts to make the best use of available resources, which is why DiMario recommends enlisting volunteers for things like cleaning up Veterans Memorial Lake and Stone Lake. "Bring some young people to the mix and put them to work," she said.
However, not all of the work can be done by volunteers, or even by existing paid staff, she said. DiMario recommends expanding the CVG staff by adding a tourism activities coordinator.