Kansas Destination Specialist

2024 is a Kansas Destination Specialist (KDS) renewal year for all designees. Even if you received your KDS in 2023, you must complete a renewal in 2024. The good news is that renewal isn’t really difficult and you might even renew without any special effort.

Renewing members must complete at least two of the following requirements:

1. Read and complete one book report form (any category). If you find a book that you want to read and it is not on the list, send me the name and a brief synopsis via email to see if it will work.

2. Visit one Kansas attraction, 50+ miles from home, and submit the visiting attraction form.

3. Obtain one education point. The KS Tourism Conference and Destination Statehouse count for this requirement automatically. Other education sessions require the education session follow-up form to be submitted.

4. Submit four reports from webinars you participated in using the educational session follow-up form.

5. Submit four reports from online articles or industry publications with the appropriate renewal form above.

If you have not completed your requirements by early August, you will be getting an email from me to remind you to do so. If you have a question you do not see covered, email me at tourism@cityofliberal.org or call me at 620-626-0170.

If you have not yet received your KDS and want to work on it this year, here are some details you need to know:

1. The deadline for submissions this year is September 27, 2024.

2. Check https://tiak.org/resources/kds/ for the list of how many points you have so you know what you need for completion. If your name is highlighted in red—you are almost there. Just need those book reports. If your name is in green—you are close to having 25 points. Knowing where you are in the process will help you decide if you can make it happen by the deadline.

3. Anything you have done since last year’s deadline of Sept. 16, 2023 can still be submitted.

4. All TIAK educational offerings you register for and attend automatically give you points without you completing any follow-up paperwork. Any other educational offering must be submitted on the Education Session Follow-up Form.

5. There is a recommended book list but it is hard to keep up to date with all the new books being published. If you have a book that falls into one of the three categories (Kansas, Leadership, Marketing) and think it is a great option then send me an email (tourism@cityofliberal.org) with a brief synopsis to get it approved for use.

Points accumulate as follows: half point for webinar or seminar; one point for half-day session; two points for full-day session; and three points for two or more days.

On the visiting an attraction requirement, you earn one point for each attraction. You may do more than one attraction from the same town but it must be a valid Kansas attraction. Example: Restaurants will only count if it is in a historic building and you are able to tour and learn about the building.

Celebrating Excellence: Winners of the Travel Industry Association of Kansas 2023 Marketing Awards

In 2023, TIAK continued its tradition of recognizing outstanding marketing campaigns that have not only showcased the beauty of Kansas but also drawn visitors from far and wide. We are thrilled to present three remarkable winners of the TIAK 2023 Marketing Awards, who have demonstrated the power of storytelling, creativity, and visitor engagement in promoting their destinations and the beautiful Sunflower State.

For a complete list of all winning entries, please click here.

For a press release, please click here.

Small Budget – Online Media


Chase County has been recognized as a marketing award winner in the category of “Small Budget, Online Media” for its exceptional work in creating a new website, www.heartoftheflinthills.com. Their innovative and visually engaging website effectively captures the essence of the Flint Hills region, offering visitors an immersive and informative experience. They have successfully showcased the rich cultural heritage, natural beauty, and unique attractions and events of Chase County, Kansas, making them a deserving recipient of this award.

Medium Budget – Community Awareness


Visit Abilene secured a well-deserved marketing award in the “Medium Budget, Community Awareness” category for their remarkable achievement in creating the world’s largest belt buckle, a notable attraction showcased at https://abilenekansas.org/worlds-largest-belt-buckle. This innovative project not only stands as a testament to the community’s creativity and heritage but also serves as an extraordinary draw for visitors from all around.

Large Budget – Visitor Guide


Visit Topeka has garnered the marketing award in the “Large Budget, Visitor Guide” category for their exceptional work in creating a captivating visitor guide, available in both English and Spanish versions. This comprehensive guide, accessible at https://www.visittopeka.com/plan/visitors-guide/, has significantly enriched the visitor experience by providing valuable information about the Topeka community, its events, attractions, amenities, and more! The team at Visit Topeka has demonstrated a commitment to inclusivity and accessibility, making it easier for a broader audience to explore and enjoy all that this vibrant destination has to offer. Their dedication and excellence in this endeavor have rightfully earned them this award.

These three winners have not only excelled in their respective categories but have also set an inspirational standard for marketing within the travel industry. As marketing award judge Katie Olson, Assistant Professor of Advertising & Public Relations at the A.Q. Miller School of Media and Communication at Kansas State University highlighted, “It truly is a pleasure to get together with diverse industry professionals to review and reflect upon what everyone in the state of Kansas is doing to promote travel and tourism. It’s fun to see how the different areas are using exciting creative strategies to promote Kansas, and I love that I can stay in touch with this area of the industry and speak to the trends in my classes!

Additionally, Karen Crane, 2023 Marketing Committee Chair commented “The TIAK marketing awards are always a highlight of the tourism conference and provide attendees with great ideas for consideration in their future marketing campaigns, events, and promotions. We are fortunate to have a well-established program with capable and dedicated judges, amazing and inspiring entries, and a committee that works hard to make sure the awards program runs smoothly. It is my privilege to have served as the chair of this great committee alongside Allison Calvin and Christina Hayes.”

In 2024, Christina Hayes with the Great Bend CVB will take the reigns of the marketing committee!

>> Click here to view all of this year’s award winners!

>> Here are some changes coming to the awards program in 2024

  • Events — You can’t submit a conference for consideration unless you’re the official organizer or creator of that conference. In other words, you can only submit conferences/events that you’ve actually been responsible for creating. (Example: you may not enter the Society for American Travel Journalists conference/convention because that conference belongs to SATJ and your community only bids to receive it and assists with hosting).
  • Analytics – We’re going to create a dedicated section for marketing analytics in each entry. The judges find it valuable to have access to data related to the entry, such as the number of attendees, economic impact, reach, and distribution numbers. This additional space is being added because we have a word limit for the entry description, and we want to ensure this important information can be included.
  • Entries must have already happened or already been released. For example, if you create a campaign that got delayed or hasn’t taken place yet, you cannot submit it until you have actually run the campaign. Similarly, if you’re organizing an event, like a Halloween gathering which is currently being marketed for the present year, make sure to include the details of the previous year’s event. This is necessary because the event must have occurred before it can be evaluated for any awards. We can’t recognize or reward an event or campaign that hasn’t actually happened yet.

KTC Keynote Gathan Borden

2023 KTC Keynote Speakers:


“Success occurs when preparation meets opportunity” is the favorite quote of our 2023 Keynote Speaker Gathan D. Borden. Mr. Borden is a 16-year veteran of the tourism industry and is currently the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Destinations International. His responsibility is to build strategy and implementation of all marketing and communication initiatives for partners and positions across the globe.

You won’t want to miss his sought-after speech on various tourism marketing topics and trends as he was selected as the “Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization” a “Top 40 under 40” recipient of Business First of Louisville, CONNECT and Rejuvenate magazines. He was also awarded the “Hot Ten Award” by the American Advertising Federation of Louisville and is considered a strong emerging community leader.

Presenting the topic “Welcoming Visitors to Your Community” at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 18, you can also follow his blog at gathandborden.com or LinkedIn at Gathan D. Borden. Follow along as he shares his valuable experiences, and stories, and honors the history to build representation in today’s destination and tourism world!

KTC Keynote Donnie Campbell

2023 KTC Keynote Speakers

Donnie Campbell

On Tuesday, October 17th the Kansas Tourism Conference (KTC) is excited to welcome speaker, Donnie Campbell! Donnie is not just an inspirational coach but also the lead character of the Emmy Award-winning show, Ted Lasso! Donnie’s valuable leadership lessons can be seen on the court but more importantly in the workplace!

Donnie will help tourism professionals figure out, “What’s your MVP?” but in a way to personalize your own most valuable player through a mission/vision/plan that will form a strong foundation for everything else. In addition, you’ll learn how to believe, motivate and mentor, build leadership and confidence, strengthen your “why” and define success.

Donnie was a math teacher and basketball coach from Kansas who was oddly picked by American Actor Jason Sudeikis when Jason played basketball at Shawnee Mission West. Donnie was an inspiration to Jason and it ended up making a huge impression on millions around the world. Donnie graduated from Lions High School in 1980, and attended Kansas State University playing football and basketball. Today, he is busy making appearances on Good Morning American and The Today Show.

This one-of-a-kind keynote combines heartfelt storytelling with lessons in leadership that bring tactical takeaways to today’s challenging environment. It’s a speaker at KTC you won’t want to miss!

KTC Keynote Paul Long

2023 KTC Keynote Speakers


The 2023 Kansas Tourism Conference is excited to announce a keynote speaker to help fulfill company culture through employee engagement! A new concept of “FUNDAMISM” helps leaders learn, transform, and maximize fulfillment, change, and manifest all that is GOOD for their teams!

By bringing FUN to fundamism, Paul Long spent over a decade successfully leading large teams and helping customer relations nationwide! Paul’s secret sauce to creating joyful workplaces will help any team lead to extreme growth!

Paul just released his new book, Fundamism: Connecting to Life Through F.U.N which has truly helped business audiences nationwide come up with wonderful solutions to build teams and develop individuals. The simple solution according to Paul is “change perspective and create fulfillment in both business and life!”

Be sure you and your team are registered for the KTC Conference as Paul Long opens the general session on Monday, October 16th at 3:30 pm!

A Look at Lindsborg

TIAK members will soon be heading to Lindsborg on June 15 for an education session featuring award-winning photographer Jim Richardson! This afternoon session will teach you how to use your iPhone to create a visual story.  Explore the tools and learn the skills that will make you an iPhone believer. Registration is now open – learn more here! *This session qualifies for KDS points.

But wait, there’s more! If you’ve never been to Lindsborg, or even if you’re a regular visitor, there is so much to see and do in this small town in Kansas known as Little Sweden! The helpful staff at the Lindsborg Convention & Visitors Bureau have put together a great sampling of attractions, events, restaurants and more for you to explore during your visit! So, come a little early or stay a bit longer and discover all the places they’ve highlighted below!

Pre/Post education session options:
Lindsborg Golf Course, Välkommen & Meadowlark Trails, and Coronado Heights offer great hikes, walks, bike rides, or exercise for the outdoorsy folk. For those who want to stay downtown and explore, we have the Hunt for the Wild Dala, Art in Public Places (a self-guided art walk in Lindsborg), as well as some of the best shopping & galleries: The Good Merchant (“ a destination for inspiration and unique offering”), Small World Gallery (photography, handmade jewelry, art, and more), Trollslända (Scandinavian-inspired toy boutique), Red Barn Studio Museum (working studio of artist Lester Raymer (1907-1991 unique, eclectic, and beautiful creations), Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery (home to the “Van Gogh of the Prairie” with creations hanging in national and international museums), the Clara Hatton Center (gifted artist and administrator with variety of media: bookbinding, calligraphy and lettering, ceramics, metalwork, oil painting, and more), and, of course, Hemslöjd (Scandinavian traditions including watching the artist paint the dala horses with Swedish folkart)! Dining options include the following: Happy Swede Restaurant, Jalisco Mexican Restaurant, Crown & Rye, China, Pizza Hut and Subway—and don’t forget our two coffee shops: The White Peacock and The Blacksmith. The Hemslöjd also offers quad bike rentals for a fun way to explore Lindsborg.

Best of / Facts about Lindsborg:

Broadway RFD—Started in 1959, Broadway RFD is the longest running outdoor theatre in the state of Kansas. Each summer, talented members of the Smoky Valley community and surrounding areas come together to bring the highest quality show to our patrons. People come from far and wide with lawn chairs in tow, to sit in the summer breeze and be immersed in song and dance. This longstanding institution strives to bring great entertainment and exposure of the theatrical arts to the people of the Smoky Valley. Consider coming to one of the four performances of Brigadoon this summer. The show will be held July 21, 22, 28, 29.

Jenny Lind Concert—Since 1965, the Folkets Hus & Parker (Stockholm, Sweden) have appointed a Jenny Lind Scholar who has toured both Sweden and North America. The Jenny Lind Scholarship is awarded to an exciting young soprano who already displays the promise of a future major opera/or concert career. Lindsborg is a stop along the tour that performs at numerous metropolitan venues—quite a unique opportunity for both the tour and the Lindsborg community! This year’s concert will be held on June 26.

Coronado Heights—Needing a quiet place with an expansive view? Coronado Heights, located just a few miles northwest of Lindsborg, gives a wonderful view of the Smoky Valley. Coronado Heights is the southern-most bluff in a series of seven, known as the Smoky Hills. It is believed that Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and his men viewed the prairie from this lookout point 300 feet above the valley floor. Chain mail from Spanish armor was found in the area by Bethany College professor J. A. Udden in 1915. Others have found Spanish coins, a bridle, and lead bars in the valley. Native Dakota sandstone was used to build the castle and picnic areas in 1936 as a project of the Works Progress Administration, creating the perfect opportunity for a picnic, kite flying, hiking, or riding the off-road bike trails. Don’t forget your camera! It is a favorite of photographers and artists alike.

Kansas Destination Specialist (KDS)

Why Should Your Entire Staff Be Kansas Destination Specialist (KDS) Certified?

What is the KDS?

KDS is a certification program designed to familiarize and further one’s knowledge of the State of Kansas with a focus on tourism, marketing and leadership! This certification process and program is provided by the Travel Industry Association of Kansas (TIAK).

Why does it help?

TIAK is the primary advocate and voice for the Kansas travel industry which represents a diverse membership of Kansas travel destinations, accommodations, transportation, attractions, and various supporting businesses. Along with Kansas Tourism and TIAK, we work together to provide support to over 84,000 jobs and many organizations within the hospitality industry. This leading education and professional development benefits incoming visitors to our state by providing educated, up-to-date, aware, and engaged professionals working in the industry!

I’m new to this…how do I start?

First, make sure your organization is a member of TIAK. The membership forms are here: https://tiak.org/tiak-membership/join-tiak/ There are a few different types of membership options and it opens the door for educational opportunities, legislative resources and services, and gives you access to the leading network for Kansas Tourism. As a member, you receive points for attending events such as Destination Statehouse, the Kansas Tourism Conference, and seminars and webinars.

Next, you need to know that the deadline for submissions is SEPTEMBER 15, 2023!!!

Check https://tiak.org/resources/kds/ for the list of how many points you have so far, so you know what you need for completion. If your name is highlighted in red—you are almost there and probably just need to complete those book reports. If your name is in green—you are close to having 25 points. Knowing where you are in the process will help you decide if you can make it happen by the deadline.

Anything you have completed since last year’s deadline of Sept. 17, 2022 can still be submitted.

All TIAK educational offerings you register for and attend automatically give you points without you needing to complete any follow-up paperwork. Any other educational offering must be submitted on the Education Session Follow-up Form.

There is a recommended book list, but it is hard to keep up-to-date with all the new books being published. If you have a book that falls into one of the three categories (Kansas, Leadership, Marketing) and think it is a great option then send an email to Sally Fuller at tourism@cityofliberal.org with a brief synopsis to get it approved for use.

Now’s the time to get to work and submit your KDS items so Sally can continue to add points to the list – or you can email her with any questions or concerns! REMEMBER YOU MUST HAVE EVERYTHING DONE BY SEPTEMBER 15, 2023!!!

I’m already certified in KDS…. what do I need to know about renewal?

First you need to know that renewals are required on even numbered years. (So, 2023 is NOT a renewal year!)

Only two of the listed requirements are needed for renewal. If you attend the annual Kansas Tourism Conference, then you already have one requirement met. Often people will renew without even trying if they attend the travel industry events such as Destination Statehouse during the year.

If you have not completed your requirements by early August, you’ll be getting an email to remind you to do so.

If you have a question you do not see covered, email Sally Fuller at tourism@cityofliberal.org or call 620-626-0170.

When will I receive my certification?

We do ask that you attend the Kansas Tourism Conference to receive your designation!! This year the KTC is October 16-18, 2023 in Dodge City!! We want to see you on stage at the banquet to make you an official Kansas Destination Specialist! This is a wonderful way to recognize your hard work and dedication to not only the State of Kansas, but to your community and role in this vital industry!

Save the Date! #KTC23

Registration opens soon for the 2023 Kansas Tourism Conference.

Get ready to celebrate the travel and tourism industry in Dodge City, October 16-18, 2023. Be a part of the Kansas tourism industry’s “don’t miss” conference of the year. Enjoy inspiring speakers, valuable educational information and fun networking opportunities. Kansas has so much travel and tourism talent and we can’t wait for you to meet each other!

For more information, visit the Kansas Tourism Conference event page. We will also showcase your marketing talents again this year with the TIAK Marketing Awards! Join TIAK in highlighting your skills in conjunction with the Kansas Tourism Conference.

We look forward to celebrating travel and tourism at the 2023 Kansas Tourism Conference! Registration opens June 1st.