Attraction development and marketing go hand in hand.
There are two sides to the tourism coin. One side is the development of attractions, hotels, restaurants, shopping and other amenities for tourists to enjoy. The other side is getting the word out that those things exist.
The marketing of Dodge City is largely the responsibility of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, a department of the city government funded by the transient guest tax.
2012 was a good year for tourism in Dodge City.
"We've had kind of a transformative year," said Jan Stevens, director of the CVB. "We hired some new staff, added the position of community coordinator, bought a new trolley, redesigned our Web page, added office space in a secondary location and amped up our trade show presence — we kicked it up a notch and very positive things have been happening."
The primary indicator for measuring the results of the CVB's marketing efforts is the amount of transient guest tax collected by the hotels in town.
The tax is collected in the same way sales tax is collected and sent to the state by each hospitality property. The state then sends the funds back to the city, where they are applied to the CVB budget.
"In fiscal year 2012, revenue from the transient guest tax in Dodge City was right at $900,000. That compares with $600,000 in 2010 and $700,000 in 2011," Stevens said.
Stevens attributes the growth in the past few years largely to the opening of the casino, the hotel at the casino, United Wireless Arena and Magouirk Conference Center and the Western State Bank Expo.
She also credits partnerships with the state tourism agency and with Boot Hill Museum.
"We spent $20,000 to participate in television advertising with the state and we just received an analysis that tells us we got a return of $80 for every dollar we spent in that effort," Stevens said.
"And our trade show presence has really been improved by the increase in our staff and the fact that Boot Hill sends Brent Harris to the shows. It really helps to have a recognizable icon in the booth," she said.
Stevens has also joined a coalition called Try Southwest Kansas, focused on marketing tourism in Dodge City, Garden City and Liberal.
"For not a lot of money, we got over 12,000 new leads from that group's ads, website and trade shows," Stevens said.
Other means of getting the word out there in 2012 included new backlit signs at the Travel Information Centers in Goodland and Belle Plaine. And visits from several travel writers paid off with stories in major publications.
"One story in particular was picked up by four German-language publications, online, in print and at major travel agencies," Stevens said.
Stevens credits various celebrations for Dodge City's 140th birthday in 2012 with increasing visibility.
The CVB hospitality program is showing progress as well. The hospitality program provides training as well as on-going informational workshops for those working on the front lines at attractions, lodging establishments, dining establishments and retail.
"Our secret shopper program only saw about 50 percent success rate at participating merchants when we started. Now that's up to 80 percent," Stevens said.
Perhaps the biggest numbers Stevens works with are the total economic impact the tourism has on Dodge City.
"The state has formulas and multipliers we use to calculate how much visitors are spending in town, based on the transient guest tax numbers. In 2011, that number was $26,665,957. In 2012 it was up to $34,530,542."
The number represents dollars spent in town by overnight travelers.
If you add in dollars spent by those in town for an event, wedding or just for the day, the number gets bigger.
And if you add in the salaries and operating costs of Dodge City's attractions, it gets even higher.
"Great things are happening in Dodge City at a pretty fast pace and the CVB is making every effort to keep up," Stevens said.
Follow Don Steele on Twitter @Don_dcglobe.