Next door neighbors to Kansas City!
2009 Annual Report Merriam Visitors Bureau
6304 East Frontage Road Merriam, Kansas 66202 www.exploremerriam.com | (913) 403-8999
MESSAGE from the DIRECTOR
Presented with less than ideal economic conditions, the Merriam Visitors Bureau rallied to continue marketing and serving our visitors through the harsh decline of travel across the nation. Although guest tax receipts remained low, our occupancy rates came in slightly higher than that of some neighboring cities and our group tour program yielded higher numbers than ever for daytrip visitors to Merriam. Fortunately, we are located in a region accessible to over 60+ million people within a day’s drive; we foster supportive affiliation with regional tourism partners; and, we offer affordable and favorable visitor amenities nearby hundreds of regional atrractions. Because of these important factors, combined with a determined focus on our core mission and key responsibilities, we remain optimistic that travel will begin the ascent once again. As we conclude the year, we must continue with an aggressive and innovative marketing campaign to position Merriam ‘front and center’ within the Kansas City visitor market. Even though we’ve faced a challenging year and the ride isn’t over yet, we must resolve to embody our state motto, “to the stars through difficulties” because tourism is a prevailing economic generator and an assured catalyst for growth. We’re proud to share with you our 2009 accomplishments and thank you for your ongoing support.
Karen M. Crane Director, Merriam Visitors Bureau
DID YOU KNOW. . . Did you know that Kansas City was recently ranked the #2 Most Affordable Getaway in the “America’s Favorite Cities” survey published by Travel + Leisure?
KANSAS TOURISM at a GLANCE • Kansas tourism spending pumps $5.5 billion into the economy. • Over 128,000 jobs are supported by travel and tourism activity (9.5% of total state employment). • Driving tours and scenic byways remain the #1 interest of Kansas visitors, closely followed by shopping, museums and festivals and fairs. • 57% of travelers spend extra time in our state because of information in the Kansas Visitors Guide. • For every $1 spent on tourism marketing in Kansas, $90 is returned by visitor spending...talk about return on investment!!
62% of Kansas City visitors come to visit friends and relatives (VFR); more than half of them stay in area hotels.
VISITOR IMPACT BY REGION Northwest: $411,100,000 Cheyenne
Shawnee Douglas Johnson Osage
North Central: $769,800,000
South Central: $1,879,400,000
Montgomery Labette Chautauqua
Because timely research allows us to make well-informed media buys and assess visitor trends and needs, we are able to more effectively promote Merriam to the ideal target markets in the most budget-conscious manner. Here is a glimpse of recent research unveiled through the Kansas City CVA’s 2008 Economic Impact Study and Visitor Profile: • • • • • •
The Kansas City region hosted a record 22.1 million visitors in 2008 Johnson County accounts for $456.9 million in direct visitor spending to Kansas City Lodging is the top expense, coming in at 27.2% of total receipts Tourism spending has increased in Kansas City by 18% since 2005 Over 30,000 people are employed in the KC travel and tourism industry Business travelers spend $260 per day compared to $120 by leisure travelers even though the leisure traveler accounts for 82% of the visitor market • The average leisure visitor is 43.5 years of age, includes 2.79 people per party and stays 2.85 nights; 53% stay in hotels and 86% of them come by automobile • The top visitor markets for Kansas City are Wichita, St. Louis, Springfield and Omaha.
DID YOU KNOW. . . Tourism generated $140 million in state and $184 million in local taxes, saving the average KC household $502 in taxes during 2008.
online marketing (cont.)
print marketing The Merriam Visitors Bureau actively promotes our city to leisure, corporate, group and sports markets. In 2009, the Bureau implemented a variety of consumer advertising strategies (some through cooperative media buys) which include: Publication Bank Travel Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Kansas Travel Guide Visit KC Meeting Planners Guide Tour KC I-35 Rest Area Wi-Fi Ad AAA Journeys
Market demographic Group travel operators Group travel operators Religious travel planners Leisure Leisure Meeting planners Group travel planners Leisure Leisure (AAA members)
Circulation 4,500 30,000 6,000 800,000 225,000 3,500 5,000
Our FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and Linked In profiles allow visitors a variety of online portals when planning a visit to Merriam and our fan/friend base grows daily. Beyond our own website and social media presence, we actively participate in numerous partner websites including: TravelKS.com, VisitKC.com, traveli-35.com, kansasbyways.org, kcdestinations.com, freedomsfrontier.org, travelguidesfree.com and officialtravelguide.com. Reciprocal partner links also provide Merriam exposure to the millions of online visitors accessing these websites.
online marketing Our Bureau recognizes the importance of reaching those who utilize the internet for travel planning. In 2009, the Bureau increased our online presence by incorporating four social media platforms which all link to our official website at www.exploremerriam.com.
DID YOU KNOW. . . 74% of U.S. travelers are currently surfing online for destinations, lodging, activities and more!
A new program, widely successful in Indiana and Iowa came to Kansas in 2009 and is being met with much support from our state travel office. Naviconnect, Inc. now offers kiosk and wi-fi advertisements at specified locations (rest areas and travel centers) throughout Kansas. Merriam placed an ad within the wi-fi range at the Franklin County Travel Center along I-35 and that ad has yielded 29,873 views (866 clicks) in the eight months it has been active.
Definitely a must visit! Good for the Merriam Visitors Bureau for encouraging geocaching. We definitely enjoyed seeing Merriam during our stay here.
media relations (cont.) Free media placement has been a great asset for Merriam as we continue to partner, connect and respond to media leads and requests by writers across the globe. During 2009, in partnership with the Kansas City Regional Destination Alliance, Merriam traveled to Topeka and Wichita granting radio, television and print interviews regarding the summer travel giveaway in Kansas City (provided in cooperation with 14 area CVB’s). Nine total media visits generated nearly 30,000 media impressions and yielded 400 contest registrations at the RDA website, www.kcdestinations.com. Writing media releases throughout the year has allowed our message expansion and inclusion without spending a dime. Our “Cache in on Merriam Tourism” summer geo-caching contest yielded exposure in the Kansas City Star, kansascity.com, The Pitch, Travelks.com and Geocaching.com. Due to the free publicity this contest generated, not one marketing dollar was spent promoting it, yet we received over 168 contest entries from all over the nation, and an award for “best promotion/marketing campaign within a budget of $1,000 or less” at the 2009 Kansas Tourism Conference.
- HistoryBug (Starbuck, WA)
media relations (cont.) Lastly, members of the KC RDA traveled to Alabama in September to meet with journalists and bloggers at the annual travel writers’ showcase. Returning with over 30 qualified leads for Kansas story ideas, our bureau provided follow-up summaries to each writer on the list, four whom specifically requested information from Merriam.
trade shows The Bureau participated in an April trade show aimed at providing regional group travel options to Kansas City planners. Although this group of planners specifically sells in the Kansas City region, the average day-trip visitor spends approximately $56 per visit while in Merriam. One additional booking from the 2007 NTA Convention generated $1,680 in economic impact during the group’s November visit to Merriam from Iowa. Because group travel operators typically plan 6 – 12 months in advance, it is not unusual to see bookings up to two years later from trade shows and events. In 2010, the TourKS group will take the annual trade show on the road to Nebraska to reach Lincoln, Omaha, Des Moines, Council Bluffs and St. Joseph group tour operators.
trade shows (cont.) Merriam also participated in the Meetings Industry Council’s speaker showcase featuring multiple regional speakers available to meeting planners in Kansas City. Each KC RDA member provided a summary of meeting facilities in their community for future meeting planning needs.
education/outreach The CVB is a catalyst for training and education in the tourism industry. As we partner with area associations and state tourism offices, we continually offer staff development opportunities to our hotel and advisory council partners. Educational training in 2009 included: the Certified Tourism Ambassador and Kansas Destination Specialist designations. In addition, the CVB provided guest speakers at bi-monthly advisory council meetings to present tourism industry topics at a local, regional or state-wide level. Because education is now expanding into the online market, the CVB plans to forward online webinar opportunities to members in the coming year as allowed through partner affiliations.
As stated every year, the CVB could not possibly promote Merriam at current levels without the numerous partnership opportunities that exist in the industry. From a great relationship with the state tourism department to membership in state and regional associations, the CVB is able to further market and promote our community to thousands more visitors than ever possible on our own. Because the average visitor does not recognize community boundaries or state lines, it just makes sense to cooperatively market our region -because visitors know where Kansas City is! The Merriam Visitors Bureau is pleased to continue partnership in the following associations: • TIAK (Travel Industry Association of Kansas) • TourKS (group travel) • I-35 Tourism Coalition (leisure travel along Kansas I-35)
• KCRDA (Regional Destination Alliance comprised of 14 area CVB’s)
• Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area (newly established heritage area between MO and KS)
• Kansas Scenic Byways (Frontier Military Scenic Byway)
HOTEL PERFORMANCE: Merriam: Occupancy ADR
2007 58.93% $59.80
2008 55.13% $61.28
2009 49.90% $56.57
2009 UNITS OF SERVICE: Type Walk-in Phone Web/Email E-news Mail / Guides Shipped Meeting Room Group Tours Hotel Blocks Media / Writers Meetings Attended Ad Placements Volunteer Hours Social Media Impressions Other Total
group travel Despite the challenging dips in leisure visitation, the CVB has seen growth in the group travel market. In 2009, Merriam hosted the most group traveler tours than ever. As research predicted, Merriam did experience higher “day group trips” as planners and consumers are looking closer to home for more affordable group travel options. The “Gallons to Go” program is still operational as the CVB strives to make motor coach travel more affordable. The $100 room discount or gas card (planner choice) is offered to groups bringing 20+ room nights to Merriam per trip. The State of Kansas also offers an attractive Motor Coach Incentive Program which we market to all of our incoming group travel planners.
2007 997 152 33,268 1,654 7,035 453 415 424 11 10 876
2008 574 55 33,662 1,310 4,346 179 314 446 38 91 8 146
2009 585 64 34,694 3,399 2,188 184 587 103 80 82 11 32 5,638 221 47,868
Weddings and reunions continue to be a great market for Merriam as we are centrally located nearby the downtown area, Country Club Plaza, and other regional reception areas. Numerous referrals have surfaced from former clients now recommending friends and relatives to Merriam. The CVB offers a variety of planning services for event planners including site visits, group discounts, goody bags, welcome/greetings, registration assistance and more!
Everything was great for our conference: lodging, food and meeting facilities! Thank you for your help. If we come back to the KC area next year I will be in touch. Thank you.. - Bev Smith (KSDOE)
Sneak Peek at 2010! Although 2009 has been a challenging year, the CVB will continue marketing through the storm. As travel indicators are pointing to smoother waters ahead, it is important now more than ever to keep our message clear and consistant -- “Merriam…Just Right” -- for meeting planners, families, ball teams, group tour operators, weddings, events, business travelers and more! Here is a peek into the Bureau’s 2010 program of work: • Complete website redesign to include more user-friendly online options, simple navigation and appealing design. Expand organic search-engine optimization (SEO). • Participate in regional marketing campaign to appeal to Merriam/KC VFR (visiting friends and relatives) market which accounts for 62% of the primary stay and purpose. This campaign will be a combined effort amongst 14 area CVB’s using online, billboard, television, radio, print and vendor marketing. • Expand marketing reach using social media and online advertising in addition to traditional marketing methods. • Continue to incorporate guest speakers with relevant topics at Visitors Bureau meetings and events. • Host one event at Merriam Historic Plaza to share the site space, accessibility and amenities with local meeting planners, changer members, and area businesses. • Implement new marketing campaigns designed to attract leisure visitors to hotel properties using special rates and promotions throughout seasonal periods (fall into savings, spring break specials, sizzlin’ summer deals) -market through social media and online advertising methods versus print for expanded reach and shelf-life. • Add Merriam’s tour itineraries to the Tour KS website for motor coach operators to have a one-stop shop for planning. Exhibit at the annual TourKS trade-show in the Nebraska region (Omaha, Council Bluffs, Des Moines, Lincoln, St. Joseph group travel planners). • Develop an online booking engine with major central reservation system (JackRabbit, BookDirect or TripAdvisor). • Respond to all leads provided by the State Tourism Department (motor coach) tradeshows (Bank Travel, American Bus Association, National Tour Association, Heritage Clubs, etc.). • Participate in local, regional and state initiatives guiding tourism development or enhancement (Tour KS, KC RDA, TIAK, Scenic Byway and National Heritage Area). • Consider co-participation in the Kansas Sampler Festival and a new trade show opportunity in KC region which emphasizes travel and culinary markets. • Coordinate National Tourism Week campaign for internal usage within partner hotels and industry partners in Merriam. Partner with area schools to expand education/outreach of tourism importance, careers in tourism and benefit to the economy and Merriam community.
Next door neighbors to Kansas City!