The Porter County government tourism office released its 2012-2014 strategic
and business plan with a focus on using technology to promote niche markets
and attractions in Porter County.
Staff announced to the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitors
Commission on Tuesday that a “mobile version” of the “Indiana Dunes Tourism”
(IDT) website is accessible. Under the direction of Niche Market Director
Angela Pasyk, the group is also producing a pair of videos aimed at
encouraging car club enthusiasts to visit the Indiana Dunes Country.
As its strategic goals, the plan lists increasing visitor conversion and
length of stay, endorsing development, advocating the value of tourism to
all county communities and functioning as a fiscally responsible and
IDT Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said travel expenditures are expected
to increase by 2.1 percent in 2012, not quite the jump seen in 2011 when
expenditures grew by 7.5 percent over 2010’s figures.
The biggest financial factors for the year, according to the plan, will be
the price of air travel, a high level of credit card and personal debt,
rising cost of health care and the price of fuel which some authorities say
will reach record highs of close to $5 a gallon.
“That’s a real big concern,” Weimer said, indicating it may impact the
number of visitors coming to the Dunes this summer.
But, studies show many people in the United States, 127 million of them,
plan to travel this year while 102 million are either undecided or plan not
to. Beach trips are the top destination picks for 2012 and 79 percent of
leisure travelers will spend at least $3,000 this year.
IDT’s goal and target markets include adventure/recreation traveler,
eco-tourists, beach/aquatic sports enthusiasts, cultural heritage/event
visitors and travel media.
Promotions Director Ken Kosky said he was able to meet with a travel writer
from USA Today at a media luncheon and the writer penned an article on the
Chesterton and Valparaiso areas for the Chicago City Guide sections in an
edition of USA Today, which Kosky estimates gave the tourism bureau a value
of more than $10,000 in free promotions.
Last week, IDT met with filmmakers documenting the historic roads in
Indiana. The roads featured are Lakefront Drive (U.S. 12) along the Dunes
and the Lincoln Highway (U.S. 30) in Valparaiso. The film will be produced
in IMAX format. Kosky said the film may be shown later this year at the IMAX
theater in Portage or on local PBS stations.
The Indiana Dunes Visitor Center will add a wider projector screen and
wireless connections for laptops inside its theater. New A/V equipment will
replace outdated equipment in both the theater and the conference room for a
price of about $7,000.
IDT Operations Director Patti Boyer said two 15-minute movies will loop
continuously in the theater room which can be halted by a concierge or
ranger at the push of a button if they wish to use the room for another
Weimer said IDT will need to seek a new company since the company which
installed the equipment five years ago has since gone out of business. More
upgrades may needed in future because technology is changing constantly.
“We’re outfitting everything as technology begins to progress,” Weimer said.
Although under no legal obligation, Board President Mitch Peters recommended
a Request for Proposals be put out for the equipment upgrade project.
The programming and equipment work should take two to three weeks, Boyer
The center’s outdoor landscaping will also see some changes. The original
landscaper, Jim Perkins, recently passed away. Perkins had completed Phase
II of the project and a new landscape architect is being sought for the
Board member John Johnson asked IDT staff to consider letting one of the
university groups carry out the project as class credit for students
studying landscape design. The arrangement would likely be a money saving
venture for the tourism bureau, Johnson said.
$2,000 Grant for
The board unanimously approved two additional grant requests from events
that did not realize they were still eligible to receive tourism dollars.
The tourism bureau in 2010 altered its grant policies to help new events
find promotion dollars. An organization can receive a 50 percent matching
grant for a limit of three years with maximum amounts up to $3,000 for the
first year, $2,500 the second year and $1,500 for a third year.
Existing events are still eligible as long as they haven’t exhausted their
The board awarded $2,000 to Porter’s Lakefront Fireworks show. The other
grant, $1,500, went to the Valparaiso Kiwanis Hot-Air Balloon Show.