Results from a 2010 survey study on tourism in Porter County shows the
number of visitors are on the rise, but suggests the county could benefit
focusing on its internal resident base.
Consultant Mitch Nichols of Nichols Tourism Group reported back to the
Indiana Dunes Tourism board on Thursday reviewing the results drawn from a
survey made to assess how recent efforts by the county’s tourism bureau has
impacted its visitor rate.
From the 612 interviewed by consumer lead, visitor center or lodging
performance surveys over the span of 2010, researchers determined that
Indiana Dunes Tourism (IDT) connects far more frequently with external
visitors than its own residents by a 4 to 1 ratio.
Nichols said it is typical for tourism bureaus to use most of their energy
promoting resources to those living outside the districts but could benefit
from educating their own constituents how tourism plays a role in
Many board members concurred with the suggestion to start an internal
campaign using the recent data to make restaurants, hotels and attractions
aware of the role they are playing in tourism.
The study also found that Porter County’s average travel party consists of
2.3 adults. More than half of visitors travel with persons under the age of
21, 47 percent are of mature age, 46 percent are of family age and 17
percent of passersby are of retirement age.
Over two-thirds of travelers have incomes above $50,000 and 43 percent are
above $70,000 in income.
The county has a high level of repeat visitors, Nichols said, with 83
percent of subjects reporting they were repeat visitors. Almost one-third
said they have stopped in the county at least four times.
Nichols challenged the board to get visitors to extend their stays since
more than two-thirds of the subjects surveyed said they were on a day trip,
a weekend getaway or just passing through.
When compared to other counties in the Northern Indiana Tourism Development
Commission, Porter County draws on average more tourists in activities such
as hiking, swimming, bird watching, biking and fishing. Nichols advised
these are areas or themes where more marketing attention could be focused.
“Getting those prospective visitors here is really a key opportunity,” said
The county did falter slightly in dining and shopping by a few percentage
points when compared broadly with Northern Indiana counties.
Lorelei Weimer, executive director of IDT, said her agency has been active
in getting Dunes visitors away from the state park and into communities with
such initiatives as the Beyond the Beach campaign highlighting about 50
different attractions. Videos on the agency’s website detailing the Dunes
include information on local attractions.
Board president Mitch Peters said IDT can look at the characteristics and
demographics of county tourists and appeal to their unique interests.
Nichols said IDT has been instrumental in stimulating travel decisions for
prospective visitors. More than 40 percent visit the www.indianadunes.com
website to collect information prior to a trip while about the same number
reported using tourism office brochures.
The brochures, however, have been the chief information tool for visitors
during their trip followed by the Dorothy Buell Memorial Visitor Center.
When seeing the brochures, 37 percent ended up visiting additional
attractions in the county. After seeing the travel info, 27 percent planned
to visit the area again.
Over half of the travelers to the visitors center were experiencing Porter
County for the first time and 93.7 percent stopped to pick up additional
information brochures. Thirty-six percent traveled to downtown districts
right after stopping at the visitors center.
Nichols said almost half of those surveyed at the visitors center sought
information to decide on something to do in the broader area, although the
Indiana Dunes are still the primary reason many visit Porter County.
Lodging and similar accommodations shone brighter in Porter County compared
to its surrounding markets. For the first nine months of 2010, the county’s
room demand exceeded competitors Michigan Southwest, Chicago South and Fort
Wayne. One interesting finding is Porter County had a 77 percent growth rate
over Lake County. If Lake County had achieved the same rate, it would mean
over 17,000 additional room nights would be sold.
Nichols and his organization will launch a subsequent survey in 2012 and
will redefine parameters focusing in on the strengths of IDT.