Kansas City’s image is on the rise, reflected in some recent national “best of” lists and furthered by the Royals’ thrilling underdog run to the World Series. It’s Ronnie Burt’s job to keep that momentum going and get more tourists and professional groups to do just what his agency’s name says: Visit KC.
About five months ago, Burt moved from Washington and became president and chief executive officer at the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association, since renamed Visit KC. In a recent session with reporters, Burt recapped some notable efforts he has been part of and some of his initiatives to extend his agency’s reach and influence.
▪ When Burt arrived, the city was in the running for the 2016 Republican National Convention. Though Kansas City wasn’t chosen, Burt said the effort helped pull together many of the area’s promotional resources.
▪ A similar coming together occurred a few months later, Burt said, when the various city promoters were ready to make the most of the Royals’ playoff run and the national and even international visibility “you just couldn’t purchase.” Burt noted that one promotion using Twitter, #catchkc, drew Royals fan videos from around the world.
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“People ask me to put a dollar figure on the exposure and economic impact, and that’s very difficult to do,” Burt said.
The effects started with the Wild Card Game against Oakland, he said, and affected countless people and businesses, “from nail salons to food and beverage … and transportation and limousine drivers,” in addition to extra overtime work and pay in many other sectors.
“It was great to see how a community can rally together,” he said.
▪ Several convention bookings for 2016, 2017 and 2018 have been completed recently. Though having another downtown convention hotel would help bring in even bigger events, Burt said, Visit KC has been doing well with more small and midrange bookings.
One of the larger recent bookings is a Shriners event in August 2017, when the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles Mystic Shrine will bring 12,000 people for 13,645 hotel room nights and an expected $12.4 million in economic impact. Another is for the North American Christian Convention in June 2017. Its 7,000 attendees are expected to generate nearly $10 million in economic impact.
Burt said Kansas City’s central location, lower costs and mix of family attractions all made the area especially attractive for educational, fraternal and church-related organizations.
Visit KC also likes to be flexible, he said, to attract business that pops up, for instance, when health care or pharmaceutical companies want to pull together a meeting to deal with changes in laws or regulations, or something like the Ebola crisis.
▪ Burt and his Visit KC staff will be moving to new offices at 1327 Baltimore. They will sacrifice their current 22nd story view of downtown from City Center Square but gain street level visibility — and access for the public. Burt said the move should help Visit KC increase its presence in the community.
▪ In January, Visit KC will help expand the sixth annual Kansas City Restaurant Week to involve more hotels and retailers. The new “Dine, shop and stay” theme is designed to draw even more people from the region, Burt said, and keep the event growing.
More than 140 businesses have signed up to participate in the Jan. 16-25 event, Burt said, which now will include special room rates and deals for shoppers. He said the list was growing and is at www.kcrestaurantweek.com.
Bart Hickey, the board president for the Greater Kansas City Restaurant Association, said the Convention & Visitors Association had always been involved in starting and promoting the week, but he was excited about the expanding scope of the event.
“We’re testing some ads in the St. Louis area,” Hickey said. The hotel and shopping specials “just give people more reasons to come.”
The week also gives people the chance to try the city’s top fine dining restaurants with “$33 dinners instead of $100 dinners,” Hickey said, “and some great values at the more midpriced restaurants.”
Some of the week’s proceeds also go to area charities, Hickey noted, and those proceeds are another measure of the event’s growth. About $60,000 was raised the first year, he said, and that grew to $250,000 last year, with a goal of $300,000 in 2015.
Involving more retailers and hotels also works toward two of Burt’s goals — to raise the community’s awareness of Visit KC and to get more people and businesses “talking about Kansas City” and its many strengths and attractions.
Adding to the team
Visit KC president Ronnie Burt said his staff had been bolstered with three new members.
Stephane Scupham is the new Kansas City film commissioner, promoting the region as the backdrop for commercials and television shows. Burt said he expected an announcement soon that a prime time network television show would be produced in Kansas City.
Scupham has more than 15 years of experience, including work in film and television production and as a talent agent. Her Kansas City work includes the firms of Sullivan Higdon & Sink, a marketing and advertising concern, and Hint, a production company.
Teresa Martinez is a special assistant to the president and governmental affairs manager. Martinez, who has a master’s degree in protocol and diplomacy and bachelor’s degrees in Engligh and foreign affairs, had been a legislative aide to Kansas City Councilman Russ Johnson.
Kathryn Hagmeier is a sales account executive and will focus on recruiting group events that use less than 200 hotel rooms at their peak. Hagmeier has tourism experience and worked for the Tulsa Convention Center. Most recently, she was an account executive with Netchemia in Prairie Village.
Martinez and Hagmeier started Nov. 10.