Two Lawrence residents are helping lead an effort to lift the state's tourism industry to a new level.
The Kansas Tourism Initiative, which is gaining attention this session in the Kansas Statehouse, is designed to bring all players in the tourism industry - from hotels and restaurants to banks, museums, historical sites and others - together to build a wide-ranging effort to bring jobs, spending and other spin-off benefits to a state that has plenty to offer.
"It's not about developing a marketing plan or a tagline for travel and tourism," said Susan Henderson, who is working on the project as treasurer for the Travel Industry Association of Kansas. "It's to focus on how tourism is an economic-development tool, and how it can be an economic-development tool for the state.
"It's not, 'Let's create a new tagline.' It's much bigger than that."
Serving on the project's core committee is Judy Billings, executive vice president for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and leader of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau. Henderson also works at the chamber and the CVB, as director of marketing.
The effort, financed through private contributions, is being modeled on the success of the Kansas Economic Growth Act - the legislation passed in 2004 that created the Kansas Bioscience Authority, spurring millions of dollars of investments in promising life-science technologies, projects and companies.
Henderson said leaders of the Kansas Tourism Initiative would be working with a consultant to assess the state's tourism conditions and assemble a plan that is both workable and financially sound.
The initiative will be expected to benefit "every nook and cranny" of the state, she said, by crafting a clear plan for financing and executing tourism initiatives designed to help place Kansas on the national stage.
"It stands to give tourism a voice and a strategic vision that hasn't been present in the state before," Henderson said. "A rising tide floats all boats. What's good for tourism across the state is good for Lawrence."