Representatives from communities throughout Kansas have been in Sumner County this week to see how tourism is promoted here, share ideas and take that information to their own local economies.

The TIAK (Tourism Industry Association of Kansas) conference started Aug. 21 and runs through Aug. 23 at the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane. The conference will draw in representatives from chambers of commerce, Convention and Visitors Bureaus and DMOs (Designated Marketing Organizations), Stacy Davis, director of the Sumner Economic Development Commission, said before the conference started.

“This big event will give our counterparts across the state a chance to see how we do tourism and business because retail is big,” Davis said.” It’s destination retail.”

Annarose White, who runs the Beehive Quilt and Be Creative toy shop with her mother, Connie Hart, said in an email that a large part of their business comes from people outside the county.

“As specialty retail it’s our job and pleasure to create a unique and fun experience, plus we know our strength is not only to show off our business, but brag about the great eateries in our area,” White said. “We know when shoppers come to our store they won’t spend all their money at our store and we want to refer them to other great places. We really need some more retail options in downtown Wellington.” 

There will be 17 vendors from Sumner County at the conference, highlighting such places as Wellington’s Chisholm Trail Museum, National Depression Glass Museum and Panhandle Railroad Museum, Argonia’s Salter Museum and the Caldwell Historical Museum.

The TIAK conference takes place in a different community each year. Bringing the event to Wellington was the brainchild of White when she was director of  Wellington Area Chamber of Commerce. White collaborated with Davis and former Mulvane Chamber of Commerce Director Amy Houston in writing an application letter to bring the conference here.

“In all the past years the conference has always been held in large cities in Kansas and we wanted to show the other side of Kansas tourism in small/medium towns,” White said. “It was a new and different idea for TIAK.”

White mentioned how the Casino draws traffic off the interstate and she said small towns do that too.  

“Even though our communities don’t have flashy retail tourism like IKEA, theme parks and breweries (yet) we do have fantastic eateries, entertainment and shopping,” she said. “Not everyone who wants to travel want the big city experience, they want to get out of the city and “escape” to the prairie of KS. 

Davis talked about how tourism dollars put money back into a community

“Sales tax dollars put back into your community. They’re contributing money back to our economy. And if they move here, there’s property tax,” Davis said. “You never know when you’re talking to the next resident of your city,” she said. “I’m not saying they will, but they might say ‘I want to live in Argonia’ or ‘I want to live in Conway Springs.”

Davis sees endless possibilities for those dollars to trickle into Kansas communities.

“Kansas in general has a lot of beautiful sites and parks,” she said. “We’re an incredible state with opportunities for tourism everywhere.”