TOPEKA (KSNT) – Many people postponed a big vacation last year, having numerous Kansans exploring what was in their own backyards.
“I think there was this newfound sense of discovery about our own home state,” said Bridgette Jobe, tourism director for Kansas Parks, Wildlife, and Tourism.
So people turned to camping at state parks or taking a road trip to see what Kansas has to offer. During that same time, many indoor attractions like museums and big event venues suffered from a lack of customers. But for some, that’s starting to change.
“In the last two months, they’ve increased dramatically,” Kevin Drewelow, director for the Combat Air Museum in Topeka, said about visitors.
Drewelow said the pandemic had been taking a toll on the museum.
“We took advantage of the PPP program and that helped us keep the lights on, we were in pretty good financial shape prior to that, but not many organizations can just basically go out of business for six months, or have their income dramatically reduced, and continue to operate,” he said.
The museum experienced a boost of hometown visitors during the pandemic. Now it’s starting to see visitors from outside of the state stopping by to check out the historic planes.
“When the news about the pandemic started getting better, that’s when it really started taking off, people are just tired of being at home and they wanted to come out, and they did come out,” Drewelow said.
Jobe said she believes many people will want to travel this year. But international travel might not be the best option for everyone. So getting visitors to stop and see what’s there to do in Kansas will be a priority as we head into summer.
“As vaccinations are going up, as numbers for COVID are going down, our marketing will increase and we will become more proactive in inviting folks to come visit us,” Jobe said.
She said the pandemic has changed how far out the tourism can promote attractions.
“This past year we have had to be more nimble than we’ve ever had to be, and to make sure that our messaging is always reflective of the current atmosphere and the current situation that we are in,” Jobe said.
In 2019, the state tourism industry saw 36.5 million visitors in Kansas. They spent $7.3 billion. State officials are hoping to build back up to those numbers.