Chesterton Tribune



Rebranding Indiana Dunes as national park expected to boost tourism

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At the March 15 State of Tourism address, Lorelei Weimer, executive director of Indiana Dunes Tourism, gave a presentation featuring key facts about the Indiana Dunes area and Porter County’s tourism.

The question on everyone’s mind: “What does the Indiana Dunes National Park mean for Northwest Indiana?”

“To be blunt,” Weimer said, “Northwest Indiana--specifically Porter County--is ‘Indiana Dunes Country’--and the National Park status only elevates our destination further.”

Weimer believes that the new National Park will contribute significantly to Indiana Dunes Tourism’s already successful marketing campaigns, which include a regional partnership with the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission, strategic digital marketing campaigns, including over 400,000 website views, and a new video marketing strategy that has 107,100 views on Facebook alone.

According to Weimer, six million visitors already come to Porter County each year, and of that, 3.6 million are coming to see the Indiana Dunes. The Indiana Dunes National Park and the Indiana Dunes State Park combined already rank seventh in the nation for visitation out of the 418 National Park Service Units--putting them just under Yellowstone National Park. National Geographic even claims that the Dunes’ visitation is almost the same as Mount Rushmore’s.

Tourism is one of Porter County’s fastest-growing industries, responsible for 1,000 tourism-related businesses and more than 5,500 jobs--one-third of which are higher-wage/professional occupations--all which pump $476 million into the economy. Last year, Dunes Tourism directly generated $50.5 million in economic impact, which is a $1 to $38 return on investment from taxes.

According to Kailey Capuano, community engagement director for Dunes Tourism, the National Park is resonating with the nation. “Our total social media impressions during 2018 were around two million, but in the one month since we became a national park, we’re already at 708,000,” Capuano said.

Dunes Tourism has begun marketing the destination with the name change, and the Dunes Tourism Activities Guide, available in early April, will note the update.

Dunes Tourism released a newly updated Dunes 101 video series following a faux park ranger throughout the dunes. While the video series still mentions the National Lakeshore, it is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to learn more about this destination. It can be found at

While the status change brings no additional funding, the elevation to one of only 61 national parks in the United States means that the Indiana Dunes is now part of an elite group distinguished by a unique status.

Weimer is constantly looking at the destination from both a visitor and business-owner perspective, and says all can benefit from the new National Park designation, which makes our area unique.

Emphasizing Michigan’s “Pure Michigan” marketing campaign, Weimer said Dunes area businesses can join together to buy into a singular story about the Indiana Dunes that will improve the area’s overall appeal.

As the official destination marketing, planning and development organization for the Indiana Dunes area, Dunes Tourism’s research continues to show that destination promotion strongly improves a location’s image for both tourism and economic development. According to Weimer, “Promoting the quality of life to attract visitors also entices new businesses and organizations.”

That’s why Indiana Dunes Tourism continues to be a leader in marketing and product development.

Weimer said Dunes Tourism, along with the National Park Service, the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Tribe, the Miami Tribe and Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, is working on a new Native American Trail that will start at the Visitor Center. Indiana Dunes Tourism’s other initiatives include a partnership with the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission (NIRPC) on the South Shore Line’s new Bikes on Trains program, the Indiana Dunes Beaches & Beyond Outdoor Adventures marketing campaign, a new Kids Guide featuring the “Discovery Kids,” a reimagined Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail, and the Indiana Dunes Grant Program, which awarded $53,000 to groups planning to bring visitors into the Dunes area by building new attractions or by organizing festivals and events.

To learn more about Indiana Dunes Tourism phone 926-2255 or visit



Posted 3/27/2019




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