"You don't need a reason to visit — but we've got plenty."
That's one of the taglines you may see in some of the new ads for "To Newton," the name of the city's reorganized convention and visitors bureau. Thursday was the inaugural annual meeting for To Newton, giving community leaders a chance to hear about some of the new organization's accomplishments and its plans for the future.
"We want to promote the whole area, things to see and do," said Alyssa Collier, To Newton coordinator. "Anyone who wants to come to Newton, we're here to help them."
About a year ago, the convention and visitors bureau was shifted from the Chamber to a department of the city, and was renamed "To Newton." The new logo features a suitcase and a circular arrow, promoting the idea of traveling to Newton, Collier said.
Since then, To Newton has been building partnerships with other organizations and reaching out to new demographics. Promotional events this year included the Kansas Sampler Festival, the Kansas State Fair, and a partnership with a local TV station to create commercials inviting consumers to shop in Newton during the holidays.
Other accomplishments included welcoming the French National Aerobatic Team to the local airport, and a local restaurant, The Breadbasket, being named to Kansas! magazine's list of the top 20 restaurants in Kansas.
Susie Santo, president of the Go Wichita convention and visitors bureau, was the keynote speaker at To Newton's annual meeting, and she praised the organization for its progress during the past year.
Organizations like To Newton do face challenges — Kansas ranks 44th out of 50 states in terms of tourism spending, and local convention and visitors bureaus may have to work with limited staff in addition to limited funding.
However, she believes it is important not to underestimate the impact of tourism on the region. She reported in 2011, domestic travelers spent $712 million in the Wichita metro area. About $18 million was spent in Harvey County.
Santo said if different tourism organizations cooperate to promote the region as a whole, everyone will benefit in the end.
"We are all out for each other, to help each other, to build each other up," Santo said.
"It will be important for us to continue working together," added Michael Lunsford, chair of the To Newton advisory board.
For more information, visit www.tonewton.com.