Mayors go looking for tourists in mostly wrong places


Sizzle took one in the ribs in the name of tourism.
  • Sizzle took one in the ribs in the name of tourism.

Area politicians are pretending to be service workers in an effort to highlight National Travel and Tourism Week. Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Mark Funkhouser was supposed to surprise guests at the Westin Crown Center with his tallness this morning.

In Kansas City, Kansas, on Tuesday, Unified Government Mayor Joe Reardon and commissioners John Mendez and Tom Cooley went to CommunityAmerica Ballpark for the Kansas City T-Bones' home opener. Mendez scanned tickets at Gate A. Reardon "worked" by watching his son Connor throw out the first pitch -- he beaned Sizzle, the T-Bones' mascot -- and visiting the radio booth.

The Boxing Day-style recognition of tourism week was clever if somewhat off-key. A more accurate celebration of visitor spending would send a public official into your home with a toilet brush. Let me explain.

Tourism is a $4.5 billion local industry, according to the Kansas City Convention & Visitors Association. The number comes from research conducted by an outfit called Tourism


The market analysis says the Kansas City area hosted 22.1 million visitors in 2008. I don't know how accurate that figure is. What's interesting is how the number peels apart.

A little less than half of the visitors spent the night in Kansas City. Of these, 62 percent said they came into town to see friends or relatives.

That so many tourists come to see loved ones should brace the attraction builders -- you know, the people who are always insisting Kansas City is one hall of fame or aquarium away from greatness. It turns out that plaques and fish don't hold a candle to personal bonds.

"Tourism" is a grandmother who wants to see the new baby. Tourism is drinking with friends from college. Tourism is a long-distance sex buddy.

Tourism is not a science center or a ballpark or a central-planned jazz district. It's fine to build these things. But creating them with the idea that people in Sioux City and Fayetteville will be the ones to pay for them is a big mistake.

Image via Flickr: RavenHawk.

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