Travel and Tourism

Strategic activities related to travel and tourism fall into a different category than other economic development target sectors. While there are job creation benefits, investments to grow tourism provide the most value from visitor spending and amenity development. When individuals visit a community for business, a trade show or a vacation, they bring in outside wealth in the form of spending on hotels, restaurants, entertainment, and so forth. The amenities created to serve tourism markets also benefit existing residents and contribute to quality of life enhancements. Growing the travel and tourism economy requires a customized approach that is typically handled by a “destination marketing organization” (DMO). This is the case locally where the Manhattan Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) works to attract all manner of visitors to the region, each of whom could become a potential resident, employer, or investor. One benefit locally is that the CVB is operated under the umbrella of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce. Coordination between economic development and hospitality marketing is critical, especially as talent attraction becomes as important as business attraction for a community’s future. While the targeted audiences are different, both strategies are marketing the region as a desirable destination.

Definition and Overview: A vibrant tourism sector imparts a strong impression upon visitors and generates vital word-of-mouth and earned media “buzz” capable of drawing prospective new residents, businesses, and entrepreneurs. Greater Manhattan’s Travel and Tourism target encompasses a wide range of activities responsible for accommodating and entertaining visitors, including hotel and motel accommodation; independent artists, writers, and performers; restaurants; and amusement and recreation amenities.

Company Composition: Greater Manhattan is home to a dynamic Travel and Tourism sector with local events such as the Country Stampede and K-State athletics which draw thousands of visitors to the community. Local tourism companies and venues include Harry’s, Tubby's Bar & Grill, the Bluemont Hotel, Wonder Workshop Children's Museum, Sunset Zoo, the OZ Museum, the Columbian Theatre, the Sugar Creek Country Store, the antique shops in Westmoreland, the Flint Hills Discovery Center, and the Liquid Art and Oz Wineries, among many others.

Site Considerations: Travel and Tourism businesses typically locate in areas with sufficient market demand. Communities that demonstrate sizable service gaps between current and future demand can influence entertainment or dining companies’ location decisions. Hotels, on the other hand, will typically locate in areas with high occupancy rates or communities with a proven ability to put “heads in beds.” Large demand generators, be they major sporting or entertainment events, can also influence hotel location decisions.

National Trends: According to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report, the travel and tourism industry contributed $7.6 trillion to the global economy and accounted for roughly one out of every ten jobs across the globe in 2016. 4 Communities in the United States are well positioned to tap into travel and tourism activity; the World Economic Forum ranked America the 6th most competitive travel and tourism market. Despite challenges from international travel restrictions, disruptive technologies such as Airbnb, and the cyclical nature of visitor spending, the national tourism sector is expected to enjoy considerable growth over the next ten years. EMSI projects that over the next decade the nation will add almost 1.8 million tourism jobs, representing a growth rate of 11.1 percent.


Greater Manhattan possesses a wealth of assets supporting the vitality of the Travel and Tourism sector. The Sunset Zoo, the Flint Hills Discovery Center, local wineries and eateries, the Country Stampede, Arts in the Park, K-State athletics, the Konza Prairie, and other destinations and events appeal to a wide variety of potential visitors. Conferences and meetings oriented around K-State program and research strengths are also a key source of potential visitation. At the same time, the region continues to expand its tourism to support infrastructure. The terminal expansion at the Manhattan Regional Airport and ongoing discussions regarding non-stop flight service demonstrate the region’s commitment to improving traveler accessibility.

Greater Manhattan’s food and beverage sector is a potential Travel and Tourism niche. Special food services (LQ = 0.9), drinking places (LQ = 1.9), and restaurants and other eating places (LQ = 0.8) were all near or above national concentrations. This is also common for a college community. Given the region’s proximity to agricultural land, as well as rising interest in farm-to-table dining, Greater Manhattan could utilize agro-tourism and the region’s culinary offerings to distinguish itself in an increasingly crowded Tourism space.

Conversely, the Manhattan Area features lower relative employment concentrations in performing arts, spectator sports, and related industries (70 percent below the national average) and amusement, gambling, and recreational industries (60 percent below). These underserved subsectors indicate that there is potentially untapped demand in Greater Manhattan for these companies.


Travel and Tourism occupations employ nearly 10,400 Greater Manhattan workers. That represents 14 percent of all regional occupations. A high total of positions in food preparation and service is common in a small to medium sized community with a large public university. While K-State students, faculty, and staff serve as a sustainable source of patrons for restaurants, theaters, malls, and other retailers, the university itself is a major driver of Travel and Tourism activity. Thus, university-driven amenity development benefits the Travel and Tourism sector and vice versa. In the end, a critical mass of these destinations would serve as a valuable asset for talent retention and attraction as well.

Travel and Tourism occupations offer a source of employment opportunity to Greater Manhattan residents with less than a high school education. Most tourism occupations typically require varying degrees of on-the-job training with no formal education requirements. However, jobs in the sector often demand a high degree of “soft” skills (punctuality, customer-service, reliability, etc.) that can help prepare workers for higher-skill and higher-wage employment.

Talent development for managerial careers in the Travel and Tourism sector is greatly enhanced by the Kansas State University Department of Hospitality Management. As the only program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration, K-State’s undergraduate and graduate programs in hospitality management will be an important asset to address managerial shortages encountered over the next ten years. Retirements combined with projected employment demand could lead to a shortfall of 111 general and operations managers in the Manhattan Area over the next ten years (2016-2026).