Tourism is booming in Kansas City. More than 25 million people visit KC every year to experience everything from world-class museums and award-winning dining to new amenities like the KC Streetcar, which make intercity travel even easier. It’s clear that there’s never been a better time to visit the City of Fountains.
In honor of National Travel and Tourism Week (May 6-12), a nationwide tradition celebrating industry professionals and the contributions they make to their respective communities, we spoke to local members of the hospitality industry—which numbers more than 48,000 workers—about Kansas City’s past, present and future.
Q: How do you impact KC’s hospitality industry on a daily basis?
My job is all about helping area businesses remain healthy and sustainable. Every day is an opportunity for me to help businesses achieve that goal. Oftentimes that involves providing them resources and contacts that connect them with others. – Janet McRae, Economic Development Director, Miami County, Kan. (20-plus years in the industry)
I sell potential visitors on traveling to and spending time in Independence, including anyone from families to big corporate and travel groups. – Kelsey Mortimer, Sales Manager, City of Independence Tourism Department (1 year in the industry)
As a hotel, we welcome and serve travelers and many area residents. It is my privilege to work with about 250 hourly associates and 36 management associates who are committed to providing four-diamond levels of service that reflect very well on Kansas City and enhance our image as a city known for its Midwestern hospitality. – Don Breckenridge, General Manager, InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza (41 years in the industry)
Working for the KC Sports Commission, my job is to help positively impact Kansas City’s travel industry by bidding on, bringing in and executing different sporting events that bring fans and spectators from around the nation to Kansas City. – Colton Spresser, Event Associate Manager, Kansas City Sports Commission (1 year in the industry)
I operate Stockyards Brewing Co. and our goal is really to provide a fantastic product and experience for KC. We run our brewery and taproom six days a week in the West Bottoms, but we also sell beer through our distributor to the greater Kansas City region. – Greg Bland, Owner, Stockyards Brewing Co. (5 years in the industry)
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of your work? Most challenging?
Going out and promoting Independence is one of the best things about my job, but it’s something that can also be challenging. Independence isn’t always a place people think of when they come to the Kansas City area, but it has so much to offer visitors of all kinds, from families to anybody who enjoys national and regional history. – Kelsey Mortimer, Sales Manager, City of Independence Tourism Department
Q: How has the industry changed since you first joined it?
Our specific part of the industry (brewing) has changed quite a bit over the last five years. When I first started working on the Stockyards project, there were really only a handful of breweries and taprooms. Now, being in the middle of this craft beer movement has really been incredible. KC is really becoming a craft beer town. – Greg Bland, Owner, Stockyards Brewing Co.
Even for basic shopping, consumers are looking for more interactive ways to spend their time—and time is so precious. They are spending more energy preplanning events to maximize opportunities and save additional dollars. – Janet McRae, Economic Development Director, Miami County, Kan.
Q: How has Kansas City changed since you first moved here?
Well, I moved here in 1965, left in 1977, returned in 1979, left again in 1985 and finally returned in 2009. A lot has changed, everything has grown up. There is some really impressive stuff going on with food. There are a lot of employment opportunities, plus so much more to do culturally. Young adults now do see many reasons to stay. – Don Breckenridge, General Manager, InterContinental Kansas City at the Plaza
I have lived in Kansas City for almost three years now and it keeps growing. There are always new things popping up, local breweries have really taken off and there are so many new restaurants around. The KC Streetcar wasn’t even an option for transportation, but the biggest thing is a new single terminal at the airport. I still don’t think I’ve even scratched the surface of things to do in Kansas City and I can’t wait for what is to come. – Kelsey Mortimer, Sales Manager, City of Independence Tourism Department
Q: What will Kansas City look like in 10 years? Fifty?
Kansas City’s diverse list of employers will continue to attract significant diversity among its residents. A mix of art and culture will focus regions around activity centers and begin to build communities around them. – Janet McRae, Economic Development Director, Miami County, Kan.
I think in 10 years, the city will be more accessible to those that are more than three hours away. With the new airport coming, an expanding KC Streetcar and the continued use of Union Station, it could really attract more people to come here. In the next 50, I think we will continue the trend towards having a young professional population. – Colton Spresser, Event Associate Manager, Kansas City Sports Commission
Q: What do you recommend to someone visiting Kansas City for the first time?
Art, food and drink. Find a way to experience all three in KC and you will absolutely be back to visit again. You can find all three in each neighborhood and get a different cultural or historical experience. It will really make you want to keep moving around the city. – Greg Bland, Owner, Stockyards Brewing Co.
Dare to go beyond the loop (I-435). There are a lot of unique things to do Downtown, but don’t miss the opportunities presented off the traditional paths. The region isn’t as flat as most people expect and some treasures are tucked away in our rolling hills. – Janet McRae, Economic Development Director, Miami County, Kan.