Officials with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau expect the city's tourism industry to be healthier -- and better informed -- in 2005.
Tourism spending numbers for 2004 aren't yet available, but Susan Henderson, marketing manager with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, said there were signs of improvement in the city's hospitality industry.
"I think it is fair for us to expect that 2004 will be as strong if not stronger than last year," Henderson said. "Locally we have a lot of good hotel managers who are enthusiastic about the future."
Henderson said large investments made by the new ownership group of the Eldridge Hotel was a sign that people were positive about the future of the city's hospitality industry.
An increase in the number of hotel bookings on the chamber-run Web site also bodes well for the future, said Brandy Ernzen, assistant marketing manager with the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Ernzen said the chamber site had 475 bookings in 2004, compared to 92 reservations in 2003. Part of the increase is attributable to changes in the site, but Ernzen said it also was an indicator that the industry was returning to normal following its post 9-11 nose dive.
Ernzen said the bureau's efforts in 2005 would include programs to make sure hospitality workers were ready to accommodate future visitors.
The bureau earlier this month was host to its first of four hospitality training sessions designed to ensure that hotel and motel employees have the answers to questions commonly asked by visitors.
The first event provide tours of common attractions in the city -- such as the Watkins Community Museum, the Kansas University's Visitors Center and the various agritourism venues in the county.
After the tours, bureau officials asked the participants questions about the attractions in a mock-game show format.
The bureau plans to have other training sessions in each of the next three quarters of the year.
"This was an idea that was brought to us by the hotel managers," Ernzen said. "Most of the time these employees are some of the first people who visitors see in the city. They give visitors an overall impression of Lawrence. It is important that they be informed and confident."