PITTSBURG, Kan. — Gov. Laura Kelly announced plans Monday to move the state’s tourism division from its current position as part of the department that also handles wildlife and parks back to the Kansas Department of Commerce, where it was before 2011.
“Consolidating our Tourism focus within the Department of Commerce sends a clear message to our industry partners and prospective companies that this administration will use every tool at our disposal to spur new economic development,” Kelly said in a press release announcing her intent to submit an Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) to the state legislature. “This realignment will benefit our business community, our tourism industry, and Kansas’s economic recovery as a whole.”
As a result of the ERO, the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is set to be renamed as the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP). Both KDWPT Secretary Brad Loveless and Commerce Secretary and Lt. Gov. David Toland said they support the move.
Locally, too, the Crawford County Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) supports the change, according to Devin Gorman, the organization’s executive director. Monday’s announcement did not come as a surprise to Gorman, he said, as destination marketing organizations like the CVB have already been given the opportunity to ask questions about the plan.
“The consensus is it would be a positive for Kansas tourism,” Gorman said. “Ultimately the goal would be to increase funding for Kansas tourism.”
Gorman noted that the CVB is a member of the Travel Industry Association of Kansas (TIAK), a group that has also endorsed the reorganization.
“This is a move the tourism industry has supported and it is the right time for this change,” TIAK President Jim Zaleski said in the press release from Kelly’s office. “Kansas Tourism and the Department of Commerce have a shared goal of bringing revenue into the state. A coordinated marketing effort will help establish and promote a consistent, strong state brand and a single ‘front door’ to Kansas.”
The tourism division will be placed within the business development office at the Kansas Department of Commerce, which already has been working on efforts to increase tourism. The ERO goes into effect July 1, unless within 60 calendar days of its transmittal to the Kansas Legislature either the House or Senate adopts a resolution disapproving it.
Reached by phone Monday, Zaleski, who is also director of economic development and tourism for Labette County, said the tourism industry is "100 percent" supportive of the reorganization plan, and he doesn't expect any political opposition to it — a view echoed by Gorman.
“There’s not any real contention that we’re aware of,” Gorman said.
He added, however, that it is difficult to predict whether the reorganization plan could become politically controversial for some unforeseen reason and get blocked or delayed.