Several hundred people gathered Thursday afternoon at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts to celebrate Kansas City as a destination for conventions and tourism and to hear challenges for the future.
Visit KC, the area’s marketing agency for travel and big events, said at its annual meeting that for every $1 spent on its media budget last year, it produced a $93 return on investment in visitor spending.
That was an improvement over its historical average return of $70 in local convention and tourism spending for every dollar the agency spent on its marketing campaign.
Agency officials said their public relations outreach also helped generate more than 600 articles about Kansas City in an array of publications.
The agency reported that it assisted with 279 conventions in 2016 that produced 325,874 room nights. Those gatherings generated an estimated economic impact of more than $246 million, according to Visit KC data.
“We have serious momentum,” Visit KC CEO Ronnie Burt said in remarks from the Kauffman stage, but added, “Now is not the time to slow down. We can’t stop. We won’t stop.”
Burt listed three top priorities to keep Kansas City’s momentum going: Expand the successful downtown streetcar line to the Country Club Plaza, build the planned convention hotel next to the Kansas City Convention Center, and build a “modern, single-terminal airport fit for today’s travelers.”
The third priority drew applause from the crowd, many of whom represented businesses associated with the local travel and tourism industry that accounts for about 46,000 jobs.
Burt also used the occasion to announce a new business offshoot from Visit KC: Spark, a destination management company that will operate separately from Visit KC beginning March 1 to assist visitors and conventions when they arrive.
Guests at the meeting heard that Visit KC exceeded its annual goal last year for hotel room nights booked in connection with future conventions, signing 294 events. Those events are expected to generate 362,305 room nights connected to various conventions and sport events from 2017 through 2023.
According to the agency’s annual report, Visit KC’s total revenue from the city’s convention and tourism tax, membership fees and other sources totaled $10.3 million in 2016. The agency’s annual report listed expenses of $3.91 million on sales; $3.55 million on “destination marketing”; $1.74 million on operations; and $789,000 on “local audience.”
Kansas City Mayor Sly James also addressed the theme that momentum must be sustained, urging support of the April 4 bond issue that will support infrastructure improvements in the city for the next 20 years.
James particularly noted that 2016 sales tax revenues from businesses along the new streetcar line increased 58 percent, compared to a 16 percent increase in overall sales tax revenues.