Sometimes it’s what
you do with what you’ve got that counts.
about $4 million to $ 7 million for tourism spending each year, while
Michigan’s dedicates $30 million in its budget, Wisconsin dishes out $15
million and Illinois spends $55 million.
But the Porter
County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission still manages to stay
ahead of the curve, according to its executive director Lorelei Weimer.
this year’s State of Indiana Dunes Tourism to a roomful of tourism
officials, business owners, community leaders and other guests at Riley’s
Railhouse in Chesterton on Thursday where she highlighted the economic
impact of tourism in the county and the obstacles it faces in the future.
responsible for adding $413 million to Porter County’s economy in 2015,
Weimer told the crowd, according to the impact study done by Certic Inc.
“When you think of
those big economic engines, you really think of steel. But tourism is a huge
contributor to our local economy,” she said.
The study results
released last month state that tourism supports 5,075 jobs in the county and
supports $98.7 million in wages.
The PCCRVC, which
markets destinations throughout the county with innkeeper’s tax collected
from local hoteliers, is focusing 95 percent of its advertising budget on
digital platforms like social media. That way it is easier to track
progress, Weimer said. Weimer said in 2016 the number of Facebook followers
climbed by 6 percent, 15 percent on Instagram and 16 percent on Twitter.
Facebook has been
the most effective way to advertise, Weimer said.
not motivate visitors to come and spend their time here. What it does is it
gets them to start thinking about our destinations in their minds. What’s
going to drive our visitor is our information, so we put a lot of
information into our website,’ Weimer said.
The Indiana Dunes
Tourism website saw 380,000 unique users in 2016. The PCCRVC staff has added
pages dedicated to niche outdoor attractions like biking, fishing and
birding. They’ve also added a page for destination weddings which saw 18,359
The yearly activity
guide is getting a digital version that will be interactive. Weimer said
business that have websites and videos can have those linked to the guide.
Weimer also shared
that earlier this week, Midwest Living magazine named the PCCRVC’s activity
guide as the best in Indiana with a marketing budget of under $300,000.
Last year was also
a flagship year in the physical world for Porter County tourism. Over
101,000 people walked through the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center on Ind. 49,
which is significant compared to the 7,500 average visitors per year at the
PCCRVC’s former location on Indian Boundary Rd., Weimer said.
Weimer thanked the
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore staff for greeting guests at the Visitor
Center. The two entities are collaborating on a Native American Trail at the
visitor center this year.
ended with Weimer telling what paid consultants have told her are the
weaknesses they see. She said that consulting groups are “shocked” to see
that there is such a “disconnect” between the communities and the Indiana
Dunes, not taking advantage of something that brings a huge number of
“You’ve got three
million people at the Dunes, eighty percent are from outside this area and
they have money. And they’re trying to figure out why you are not trying to
capture that money,” Weimer said. “We have some theories of why there might
be that disconnect but it’s a golden opportunity for our communities to
embrace that Indiana Dunes brand.”
Weimer mentioned was not having many outfitters that can provide materials
and guides for outdoor attractions. Another was the shortage of wayfinding
signage in the county.
Many communities do
have signage to get around their towns and cities but none on how to
circulate to other communities. For example, people traveling on U.S. 30
wouldn’t know that the Dunes are to the north and the Kankakee River is to
the south, Weimer said.
“It makes a huge
difference in getting people around,” said Weimer.
presentation, the PCCRVC board met briefly to approve an updated list of
approved expenditures that can be purchased with non-tax revenue or the
money collected from selling advertising space in printed guides and online.
According to the
list, non-tax revenue can be utilized for such things as marketing and
promotion, special events, printing, retail and promotion items, payment of
staff for work expenses, special meals with consultants or other
professionals regarding business, office supplies and equipment, training
and education, and projects that “enhance product within Porter County.”
expenditures will be provided to the board monthly for its approval.