Behind the Scenes at the Merriam Visitors Bureau…

Summer has come to an end, and while the visitor turnout may slow a bit during the fall and winter season, the Merriam Visitors Bureau is open year-round to welcome and service our guests. From meeting patrons to bridal parties, sports parents to motor coach travelers, the local visitors bureau office is often the first stop for visitors to any community.

Because no two days are alike inside the bureau office, we thought we’d give you a sneak peek into our to-do list and the top five visitor questions we receive from walk-in guests. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes glimpse, and we welcome you to come see us on the East Frontage Road in Merriam.

Top 5 questions at the visitors bureau office:

  1. Why are there bears outside? — The bears are a fun play on Merriam’s history during the operational years of Merriam Park (1880s). A mama bear and her baby cubs roamed the zoo grounds that were located inside the park, and the superintendent would have to coax them back to their den in the evening. Interestingly enough, we also have an elementary school in Merriam with the bear as their mascot!
  2. I never knew this building was here. How long have you been here? — Merriam Historic Plaza and Visitors Bureau was built in 2006 and has been serving visitors from this location ever since. However, did you know we have had a visitors bureau office in Merriam since the late nineties?
  3. What is the difference between a visitors center and a visitors bureau? — Slight differences, but mostly in size, staffing and hours. Visitor centers are typically state funded, operated year-round and solely provide visitor service (maps, directions, restrooms, etc.) Some are located inside convenience stores and rest areas, others are free standing. Kansas has only two visitor centers—one in Belle Plaine and one in Goodland. The local visitors bureau is typically managed through the local city, chamber of commerce or contracted independently. A visitors bureau is often funded by guest tax dollars of visitors staying in that city’s hotels. More than just a walk-in facility, the visitors bureau is oftentimes the marketing branch for the destination, and handles sales and service too.
  4. Where do you get your beautiful flower baskets? — This question is our favorite because our Public Works department actually makes them in-house. They also host a basket making workshop in the early spring, so for around $40, you can make one too. We think Merriam has the most beautiful flower baskets in the metro!
  5. What should I do when I’m in town? — This one varies based on the visitor’s interest (and sometimes the weather). From history to art, food to festivals, we can certainly make some fun recommendations for everyone, but there’s nearly always a BBQ request.

In case these questions don’t quite explain what we do here at the visitors bureau office, we’ve also created the list below of what we might be working on any day of the week, but we’re always happy to customize the visitor experience! It’s one of the reasons we’re named a “top tourist-friendly city in the U.S.” by Expedia. So, if you’re looking for super amazing visitor assistance, please give us a shout!

Here’s a sampling of the CVB day in the life:
Restock visitor brochure racks; respond to visitor inquiries for local places to dine, shop and stay; maintain the bureau office, meeting room and historic plaza grounds; assist walk-in visitors with questions, maps, referrals and suggestions; attend meetings (regional, state, etc. that impact the tourism economy and industry); update website and online offers; conduct site inspections with local hotels and area businesses by request; provide step-on greeting for incoming buses and groups; escort motor coach tours; setup and attend industry trade shows; conduct sales calls and visits; design visitor promotions; market local and regional events; manage social media accounts; write travel blog posts (like this one); design and write the annual Merriam Visitors Guide (big job, lots of coffee); participate in City of Merriam events, employee activities and regional promotions; meet with local businesses to encourage visitor discounts and special offers; provide unified voice on issues related to tourism; connect local residents with visitor services for incoming guests; provide speaking engagements for local and regional groups (Kiwanis, Lions Club, etc.); other duties as assigned, and as the day dictates — this week, for example, we are turning our fountains pink for breast cancer awareness and next week is the annual tourism conference in Junction City.

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