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Archive for Saturday, April 23, 2005

Cycling event planned for May

April 23, 2005

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The Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau doesn't plan on cashing in with just one sport or a single event.

"It's not one big thing, it's not two big things, it's a series of things that bring notoriety to our community, and they are growing and they are ongoing," said Judy Billings, executive director of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau.

With the Kansas Relays this weekend, the National Collegiate Cycling Assn. Road National Championship May 13-15, and the American Fastpitch Tournament coming back to Lawrence July 18-24, the bureau is expected to be host to approximately 10,000 visitors who will spend more than $6 million in surrounding areas for these three events alone.

Lawrence has a contract with USA Cycling to host the cycling tournament for the next three years, with the possibility of an additional two years, said Bob Sanner, executive director of the Lawrence Sports Corp., a division of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The championship is open to collegiate teams that qualify for the tournament by either winning their district or conference championship tournaments. Sanner said he only had time to land the collegiate division for this year's tournament. Next year, he hopes to add more divisions like junior or open divisions.

"When you have more participants, you see more money being spent at hotels and restaurants," Sanner said. "The potential is increased three-fold."

Sanner expected more than 1,000 visitors spending up to $300,000 in Lawrence for this year's event.

The bureau is also working to market Lawrence to visitors outside this market with the hope of exceeding last year's tourism numbers, Billings said. Last year, visitors spent more than $41 million in Lawrence, an increase of $2.3 million from the previous year. Those tourism dollars generated almost $830,000 in sales tax.

Billings said she was focusing on the "drive market" - the type of tourists who live within driving distance but far enough where they have to stay in a hotel.

Hotel staffs are crucial to ensuring a visitor has a pleasant stay and often they are the first people visitors see when they arrive in Lawrence, Sanner said. That's why the bureau assisted with hotel hospitality training sessions in January. The sessions were designed to ensure hotel and motel employees have answers to questions commonly asked by visitors and are informed of upcoming events.

The bureau isn't trying to overload front-desk employees by making them memorize a year's worth of events, Billings said. It gives employees the resources they need to find the information.

"They don't have to know everything that's going on. But they need to know where to find out about it," she said.

Only three hotels were able to participate in the first training sessions because some of the smaller hotels were lightly staffed because of the off-season. Billings said the bureau planned to offer more training sessions.

Kansas University journalism student Matt Rodriguez can be reached at 832-7254.

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