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.

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!

2023 Destination Capitol Hill

Travel professionals from all over the country converged on Washington, D.C. in April to visit their lawmakers. As shared by TIAK’s President, Melissa Dixon, our “representatives have the means to make real change in our industry. We want to make sure the voices of the travel industry are heard so improvements can be made.”

Several travel industry leaders in Kansas joined Dixon for the trip and received a shout-out from Sen. Jerry Moran (R-KS). Dixon went on to share the magnitude of individuals involved in her travel, alone:

“Many individuals made my trip possible: hotel staff, airport maintenance workers, restaurant employees, janitors, shuttle drivers, airline pilots and attendants, air traffic controllers, baggage handlers – I could go on and on!

“The travel industry creates countless service jobs. Vacancies in those jobs hurt the visitor experience and cost our communities millions of dollars in visitor spending. We urged our representatives to act on a few items that could make major strides” including:

  • Provide H-2B Cap Relief
  • Lower Visitor Visa Wait Times
  • Advance FAA Priorities

Wacky Wichita!

If you’re heading to Wichita in October for the annual tourism conference, make plans to check out the offbeat and wacky things to see and do! Seen through the eyes and exploration of travel writer Megan Bannister of Olio in Iowa, she loves to find offbeat attractions, and had no trouble finding unusual and wacky fun in Wichita. Learn more about what she discovered in her article, Offbeat and Unusual Things to do in Wichita.”

Speaking of the tourism conference…

  1. Don’t forget to register for the conference at: https://tiak.org/events/kansas-tourism-conference/registration/
  2. Book your hotel room: https://www.marriott.com/event-reservations/reservation-link.mi?id=1637706168075&key=GRP&app=resvlink
  3. Submit your marketing entries for the awards ceremony: https://tiak.org/marketing-awards-open-through-august-5th/