Merriam Visitors Bureau benefits as hotel revenue rebounds; IKEA the newest draw

The Merriam Visitors Center works with the five area hotels to host Merriam visitors.
The Merriam Visitors Center works with the five area hotels to host Merriam visitors.

Revenue at Merriam’s five hotels along the I-35 frontage climbed by 14 percent in 2014, which is good news for the Merriam Visitors Bureau.

The occupancy rate for the Merriam hotels was 59.2 percent in 2014 with an average daily rate of $62.75 among all the properties. The hotel occupancy bounced back in 2013 following the recession years. Karen Crane, bureau director, told the city council Monday night that another success for the visitors bureau was its shuttles to the Big 12 Tournament which it started in 2014 and repeated this year with much higher ridership numbers.

Crane’s annual report said 600 visitors walked in to the bureau at the historic plaza location and 16,000 visitor guides were distributed. The bureau works closely with the five hotels, Crane said, and the overnight guest tax from the hotels supports the entire visitors bureau operation plus city festivals, events and some capital costs.

Anecdotally, about one in five walk-ins at the visitors bureau this year have said they are in town to visit IKEA, which promises to be a new draw for Merriam. The hotels, Crane said, are the last place to stay for Kansas City visitors coming in by I-35 who don’t want to stay downtown.

But it is not just IKEA and downtown KC that provide the attractions. More than 800 people on group tours made stops in Merriam. Among the most popular Merriam tour stops, Crane said, are K.C. Strings and Povitica, but visitors also stopped at GuitarLamp and Georgetown Pharmacy.

On Valentine’s Day, the visitors bureau highlighted another hometown company by delivering Valomilks (yes, made in Merriam) to area hotels to give to guests.