Topeka — Aviation.
The Western frontier.
And, of course, "The Wizard of Oz."
They are assets for Kansas, and they just might be a potential gold mine for attracting tourists.
That was the message from a travel and tourism consultant who is leading a conference this week. The event in Topeka is sponsored by the Department of Commerce and Housing and its Travel and Tourism Development Division.
The consultant, Joe Veneto, said Kansas is heading in the right direction with a strategy of marketing key themes but the promotional effort requires more.
"It's not just about having a product, a service or an experience," Veneto said. "It's about putting it together in a way that will be compelling to consumers."
Speaking Tuesday at the conference, Veneto said the challenge for Kansas tourism isn't only to bring tourists, but also to provide and market such a variety of attractions that visitors will want to return.
The Travel and Tourism Development Division considers Kansas' selling points to be its connection to the Western frontier, aviation, agritourism, nature-based tourism, hunting and fishing, and arts and culture.
Using these six categories, tourist attractions throughout the state are forming alliances with others that have similar themes in an attempt to draw tourists to many locations.
"There are people around the state trying to do really neat things, and they aren't quite sure if they are a destination attraction," said Jeff Mercer, director of travel and tourism. "And often they aren't, by themselves. "What we're talking about is, you don't have to do this alone."
One advantage Kansas has for attracting tourists is the recognition the state has for its part in the movie "The Wizard of Oz," Veneto said.
"What people are looking for when they travel is a story," Veneto said. "They're looking to have fun."
If the state can draw people in using the popularity of "The Wizard of Oz," he said, then it may be able to get them to return for attractions they may have been interested in but didn't have time to visit, he said.
"Yeah, 'The Wizard' started it, but he doesn't have to finish it," he said.
The Legislature voted this year to cut $150,000 from the Travel and Tourism division's budget, which means promoting tourism won't be easy, said Fred Schwien, deputy secretary of commerce and housing.