The video equipment
in the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center’s theater will be fully replaced soon.
Tourism Board meeting, Board President Mitch Peters said the theater should
be a priority since summer is peak visitor season at the Dunes.
of Dunes Tourism Lorelei Weimer said the video equipment in the theater is
woefully outdated, and she’s gotten quotes for both a temporary fix and a
total rehaul of the projection, sound, and lighting equipment and the
software that runs it.
The “band-aid fix”
would be approximately $3,000 to update the software but not replace any
equipment, leaving some things incompatible. The total rehaul would be about
$25,000 from Portage-based Xorco Technology, a company that’s done a lot of
work at the Visitor Center over the years.
“We don’t want to
do that band-aid fix. We know that’s only going to lead to other issues and
breakage,” Weimer said.
The National Park
will fund the upgrades, and those funds won’t be available until August.
However, Weimer said Tourism has the funds to buy the new equipment and be
reimbursed later. A timeline hasn’t yet been established for the work.
facilities upgrade, Weimer reported the oldest of five rooftop HVAC units at
the Visitor Center was replaced. Now all five units are relatively new, and
expected to last 10 years.
Weimer said Tourism
got its money’s worth out of the old unit, which exceeded its expected
lifespan and lasted at least 13 years.
Christine Livingston reported progress continues on the Native American
Trail. Livingston said the National Park just secured another grant for work
on the trail, a $50,000 grant from the Challenge Cost Share Outdoor
Foundation. The new grant is a 50/50 match, and Tourism’s $25,000 match can
be made in in-kind services.
said Tourism is working on a digital campaign with Cornell, a large bird
watching publication she described as the Wikipedia of the birding world.
Weimer noted that
the dunes get visits from lots of unique birds year-round, so tapping into
the birding community is a way to boost off-peak visitation. “One of the
things we’re really focused on is niche markets, and we’re excited about
niche markets like this because we can go year-round.”
Weimer said one of
the most successful digital marketing strategies for Tourism has been
working with “influencers” who visit the dunes.
“They come and
experience our destination, and then they write about it. We will only work
with people who actually visit the destination because we want to make sure
they tell the experience from their perspective,” Weimer said.
Weimer said blogs
from these influencers generate a lot of interest, based on website metrics.
“We find that people stay on those pages an average of four plus minutes,
which in the digital world is a really good length of time.”
The Board also
approved a draft of the 2020 budget yesterday. Weimer said the new budget
proposes an increase of $65,000 to the marketing line item, bringing the
2020 marketing budget to $300,000 up from $235,000.
Weimer said the new
budget also includes an increase to hourly salaries from $67,000 to $70,000.
Weimer said an increase in visitation since the National Lakeshore became
the National Park necessitates more funds for front desk staff at the
Visitor Center. The total proposed 2020 budget is $2,033,701.
Richard Riley reported the innkeeper’s tax collection for May was
$93,153.33, which is an increase of 4.6% over May 2018.