January 26, 2011
A new push for tourism aims to make a scenic piece of Kansas history a national attraction.
Governor Sam Brownback signed an executive order Wednesday moving the Division of Travel and Tourism from the Department of Commerce to the Department of Wildlife and Parks. One of the Department's top goals is promoting the Flint Hills.
Suzan Barnes owns the Grand Central Hotel in the small town of Cottonwood Falls, tucked away in the Flint Hills. The walls of her hotel have been standing there for more than 120 years.
"I get people from all over the world. The strong interest is the Flint Hills and the cowboy culture here," said Barnes.
That interest has Governor Sam Brownback hoping the Flint Hills become a more popular tourist destination, contributing to a multi-billion dollar industry for Kansas.
"I think the biggest thing frankly we can do is just really start shouting about it. This is a beautiful area," said Brownback.
To help people enjoy that beauty, there's a push to create hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails.
"To me this is the sort of thing that you invest in the areas you have key opportunities, and this is one of them," said Brownback.
The Governor is proposing to increase tourism by adding portals off major Highways to allow drivers to better access the Flint Hills. He also wants to increase cross-promotion to encourage people to stop in the Flint Hills as they travel to Kansas for other events, such as rodeos.
"It's really ready to grow, and it's time we take advantage of the moment," said Brownback.
Those already taking advantage of it see how tourism in the Flint Hills can be successful.
"I think that the success will be that we see it like it is, and leave it like it is," said Barnes.
Because it is the last destination of its kind.
"[Visitors] can't find this anywhere else. And they've done their homework and have researched enough to know that this place is very unique. And they come to see the Flint Hills," said Barnes.