Chesterton Tribune



County Tourism Board OKs incentives for business directory updates

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Businesses who respond sooner rather than later to provide updated information for their listings in the Indiana Dunes Tourism database could win free ads in the Activities Guide, thanks to a new incentive program. The Tourism Board approved a new policy regarding annual updates to business listings, including incentives for early participation, at its meeting last night.

Dunes Tourism maintains a database of nearly 700 local businesses that are searchable on its website and sends annual forms to businesses asking them to either affirm the details of their listings or submit new information. Businesses are not charged for the listings.

These annual surveys garner a very poor response rate, and after Tourism staff conducted what Executive Director Lorelei Weimer called a “massive” overhaul of the database spanning six months, staff need a better way to get in contact with business owners to make sure the database is correct.

The sooner business owners update their information, the better, as all businesses who update their information by June 1 will be entered into drawings for free ads in the Activities Guide. Weimer said the process has also been made easier for business owners--they’ll receive forms that are prepopulated with their information, so if nothing’s changed, the form can be simply signed and returned.

Forms are being sent now. Businesses who update by April 1 will be entered to win a full page ad, valued at $2,500. Those who update by May 1 will be entered to win a half page ad ($1,450 value) and those who update by June 1 will be entered to win a quarter page ad ($750 value). Businesses who miss all three deadlines will have their listings made inactive until they provide updates.

“At any point, they can submit that form, and they’ll be active again,” Weimer said. “ But they have to realize that if it’s after a certain date for our print publications, they would be excluded from those that year.” Businesses should update their listings by Aug. 1 if they want to be in the printed guides, she said.

Weimer said staff will get the word out in various ways. “We’re going to make every effort to make sure they all know what’s going on,” Weimer said. “We don’t want anyone to go inactive.”

Staff Report

Weimer reported she and Tourism staff hosted a successful visit from Elaine Bedel, CEO of the new Indiana Destination Development Corporation (IDDC)--a public-private partnership in the same vein as the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC)--brought to life by the 2019 General Assembly. Bedel was formerly the IEDC’s CEO, and she apparently loved the Dunes.

Weimer reported Bedel learned about Tourism’s efforts on the Native American Trail in development near the Visitor’s Center, visited the Portage Lakefront to survey the erosion damage, and completed the 3 Dune Challenge at a blazing speed.

“She was sold,” Assistant Director of Tourism Christine Livingston said. “I really think she was moved by her trip up here.”

Weimer then gave an update on recent erosion issues. Weimer said the National Park Service is getting calls from would-be visitors concerned the Park is closed, and local business owners have expressed concerns that news of erosion could impact traffic at the National Park and, in turn, their revenue that gets a boost from visitors.

Weimer said NPS and Tourism alike are planning a major PR push so the public knows the whole Park isn’t affected. “There will be a heavy lift on our part to counter some of the stories that are out there.”

Lake Michigan’s water level is almost higher than it’s ever been--five-and-a-half feet above a historic 2013 level--according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presentation Weimer attended. Problems are extent throughout Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and the Indiana Army Corps of Engineers estimate the Lake could rise another 12 inches this spring.

Board Treasurer Richard Riley reported the January innkeeper’s tax collection was $107,982.59, a year-to-date increase of 8.6 percent. January visitation was up as well, with a record-setting 2,167 people coming through the Visitor’s Center in the first month of the year. Average visitation for January is approximately 1,300.

Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission

Executive Director of the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission (NITDC) Dan Bearss gave the Board an overview of the work being done on a nine-county collaborative effort to advocate for Northwest Indiana in the State Legislature.

Years in the making, the partnership is intended to bring leaders from both the private and public sectors together in “advocating for issues that affect tourism, quality of life and quality of place in Northwest Indiana,” according to Bearss. The partnership is modeled after a successful 10-county coalition that’s been operating for years funded by a membership system in Northeast Indiana.

Northwest and Northeast Indiana have 57 of the State’s 150 legislators between them, and it’s time for a bipartisan effort to bend their ears about policy, regulations and board appointments, according to Bearss. “Our attitude is that if we haven’t gotten our fair share, it isn’t due to anything nefarious or underhanded, but it’s because we haven’t been present and been down in Indy asking for our equitable share of these resources,” he said.

Infrastructure improvements could be the main push, Bearss said, as the Northeast coalition has successfully won improvements for Purdue University Fort-Wayne and road projects. Weimer noted two commonalities among the nine-county region are U.S. 30 and the Indiana Toll Road, which was up for discussion in a recent meeting with Porter County business owners.




Posted 2/21/2020




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