Chesterton Tribune

Porter County tourism leaders respond to Lake County attack

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Although Lake County’s tourism bureau chief claimed at a Thursday news conference to have outperformed Porter County in filling hotel rooms, he actually provided incorrect numbers in one category and ignored two other categories in which his county was outperformed, tourism officials said Friday.

Mitch Nichols, president of Nichols Tourism Group, a nationally-recognized tourism strategy and planning group, said Porter County actually outperformed Lake County by significant margins in boosting room demand and room revenue during 2011.

Porter County’s rooms sold increased by 9.3 percent in 2011 when compared to 2010. Lake County’s rooms sold increased by 5 percent during that same period, according to the Smith Travel Accommodations Report (STAR).

“Porter County’s growth in room demand far exceeded other competitors and was 86 percent above that of Lake County,” Nichols said.

“If Porter County did not have a 9.3 percent increase in rooms sold, but rather had the same 5 percent growth that Lake County had, there would have been 15,000 fewer room nights sold in Porter County.”

Nichols also pointed out that the STAR statistics show Porter County’s room revenue grew 11.2 percent in 2011, better than the 8.1 percent growth in Lake County.

Also, Lake County tourism’s president and CEO, Speros Batistatos, said at a news conference that Lake County’s hotels had a 60 percent occupancy rate when compared to Porter County’s 42 percent. However, Porter County actually had a 54.6 percent hotel occupancy rate, according to STAR statistics.

“Porter County was able to have a banner year in generating new lodging demand,” Nichols said.

Nichols said strong marketing initiatives like the Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail and a strengthened web presence by Indiana Dunes Tourism, Porter County’s official tourism bureau, are proving successful.

“A tourism bureau can’t take 100 percent credit for room demand growth and while a variety of factors go into Porter County’s above average growth rate, Indiana Dunes Tourism’s initiatives were certainly important factors,” Nichols said.

Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said visitors contribute more than $300 million each year to Porter County’s economy, and she said visitor spending grew in Porter County even during the recession. 

“Our focus has been to not only attract visitors, but to get the 3 million people who visit the Indiana Dunes each year to extend their stay and take advantage of the great dining, shopping, attractions and lodging throughout Porter County,” Weimer said.

Weimer said Porter County, in addition to seeing a growth in hotel rooms sold, also saw a net gain in the number of restaurants during 2011, with new restaurants opening like Masala Jack’s, Valley Kitchen & Bar, Villa Nova, Sage, Zing’s Pizzeria, Big Daddy’s Genuine Barbecue, Meditrina Market Cafe, Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Chipotle Mexican Grill and The Boiler Room.

Indiana Dunes Tourism promotes tourism-related businesses like lodging establishments, restaurants, stores and entertainment venues on its website --

 -- and in its publications.


Posted 2/3/2012