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What is the current state of tourism in Indiana?

Four people sit behind a branded table with "IN Indiana" signage in front of them and behind them. Governor Eric Holcomb is on the far right.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Indiana Destination Development Corporation Secretary and CEO Elaine Bedel (second from the left) sits at a panel with business and government officials while unveiling the state's "IN Indiana" campaign in June 2022

What is the state of tourism in Indiana and how are state organizations helping expand it? Several members of our audience inspired this question.

Elaine Bedel is the CEO of the Indiana Destination Development Corporation, a quasi-government organization that works to bring more people to Indiana.

She said her organization has focused on digital outreach and billboards to encourage more people to visit Indiana. Bedel said the IDDC received more funding after demonstrating the success of these efforts in attracting more visitors.

“This last session, in 2023, we were able to work with the legislators and probably give them information they had never had before, like return on investment and how perception has changed,” she said. “And we were fortunate to get a $20 million budget each year [of the two-year budget].”

She said this extra funding will help the organization expand in its outreach and marketing to attract more visitors.

“We plan on spending about 75 percent, or $15 million out of the $20 million, purely promoting Indiana and working with our partners around the state to help promote those different areas of the state,” Bedel said.

She explained this includes expanding digital and marketing outreach to other Midwestern cities, including Detroit, Nashville and Cincinnati, and eventually focusing on a national campaign.

Bedel said survey results show current marketing tactics are somewhat successful in attracting more visitors.

“[Of] the group that had not visited and did not see our promotion, 17 percent strongly agreed that Indiana is a good place to live,” she said. “And the group that came to Indiana and saw our promotion, 40 percent strongly agreed.”

READ MORE: Indiana unveils new tourism marketing campaign, 'IN Indiana'

Join the conversation and sign up for the Indiana Two-Way. Text "Indiana" to 73224. Your comments and questions in response to our weekly text help us find the answers you need on statewide issues.

Bedel said the IDDC also tracks how much visitors spend while they’re in Indiana. She said numbers from June 2023 show visitors spending the most they have compared to June 2019, which showed the second highest spending patterns since the IDDC began tracking this information.

Amy Vaughan is a professor at IUPUI and worked as the state’s tourism director from 2005 to 2012.

She said, in the past, the impact of tourism in the state was not as visible, leading to lower funding and resources across the industry.

“During my tenure as the Indiana State Tourism director, our state budget was about $4.4 million,” Vaughan said. “And then we actually brought in some additional revenues through sales and advertising in promotional literature.

She said neighboring states had much higher tourism budgets, making Indiana’s tourism industry less competitive comparatively.

“Just for comparison, in terms of our neighboring states, Michigan has a $40 million state tourism budget, Kentucky [has] $45 million, Ohio [has] $35 million, and Illinois [has] $100 million,” she said.

Vaughan said the focus on tourism has since changed, leading more people to see this as a viable industry.

“I think awareness has increased about the tourism industry as really important to economic development and the economic impact is so significant,” she said. “I also think the pandemic played a role in increasing awareness of the economic impact of the industry.”

Vaughan said attractions such as the Indianapolis Children’s Museum or White River State Park in Indianapolis, areas such as the Indiana Dunes or Brown County and conventions such as the Future Farmers of America and GenCon have brought attention and visitors to the state.

Bedel said the IDDC also uses its funding to encourage college students to remain in Indiana. Funding also goes toward attracting talent for jobs within the state.

Violet is our daily news reporter. Contact her at vcomberwilen@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @ComberWilen.
Copyright 2023 IPB News.

Violet Comber-Wilen

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