Kansas is hot.
Not like, "Turn on the A.C." hot. I mean it's popular; a destination, a place where visitors want to spend a lot of time. And also spend a lot of money.
Tourism is so strong in Kansas it annually generates $10.8 billion for the state's economy. That's hot enough to be more than about half of the Fortune 500 companies make in a year.
Since we're entering peak times for travel and tourism, I'll share some facts that show the strength and importance of tourism in Kansas.
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Consider three June events in the Flint Hills:
For days, 2,650 bicycle riders from 49 states and 16 foreign countries have gathered in Emporia for an ultra-challenging 200-mile backroad bike race on June 2.
A week later, an estimated 7,500 symphony music fans will gather in a pasture for Symphony in the Flint Hills.
And up to 150,000 country music fans attended the three-day Country Stampede at Tuttle Creek State Park in June.
And Kansas offers so much more. Kansas Speedway is one of the most popular race tracks on the NASCAR circuit. We're up to 28 state parks, and several have been ranked among the top in America for scenic beauty.
We have more than 3,000 miles of maintained trails. Some are truly world-renowned, especially for mountain biking and hiking.
This fall and winter, sportsmen from all 50 states will come to Kansas to participate in 5 million individual days of hunting adventure.
Every one of our millions of tourists are making life better for Kansans. I already mentioned the $10.8 billion a 2016 economic impact study said tourism adds to our economy.
For perspective, cashed out in $100 bills that would be a string of connected Franklins over 10,000 miles long. Spending by visitors also supports more than 69,000 jobs in Kansas.
All Kansans benefit from the $609 million generated in local and state taxes by visitors. Without tourism, every household in Kansas would pay an extra $550 in taxes to maintain the current level of government.
Those figures will continue to increase as Kansas tourism grows. I urge you to get out and look for yourself this year.
Our Flint Hills are the most legendary prairie in the nation, but we have other special landscapes. Southeast Kansas' Chautauqua Hills hold steep, heavily timbered hillsides, bus-sized boulders, clear streams and waterfalls.
Farther west, Kanopolis, Wilson and Historic Lake Scott state parks have prairie trails through the Smoky Hills that lead past caves and atop cliffs 50 feet above a lake so clear, you can see fish swimming below. Flint Hills Trail State Park stretches 90 miles and has Ozark-like hills and woodlands on one end and stunning, 10-mile Flint Hills vistas on the other.
Eco-tourism is booming. Bird-watchers in Europe, Canada and many parts of America have made reservations for birding tours in Kansas next spring. The Arkansas and Kansas rivers have been named National Water Trails and offer hundreds of miles of recreation.
Craft breweries, wineries and distilleries are popping up like dandelions after a rain. Most offer tours and great food. Kansas has many destination restaurants that have drawn national attention for thick prime rib, fried chicken, juicy ribeyes and chicken fried steaks the size of small pizzas.
If history's your thing, we've got some of the country's best museums and sites for Native American, Western, Civil War and African-American history.
You can simply log on to travelks.com for more information on these or hundreds of other attractions in Kansas, and to order your free visitor's guide. You can download our app from most app stores.
In fact, check it often as more and more attractions are coming on board. Kansas tourism is hot, and getting hotter by the day.