PORTER | Visitors to Porter County attractions helped grow the county’s tourism and travel industry by 5.9 percent annually from 2009 to 2011, Indiana Dunes Tourism officials said Tuesday during a newsconference at the Indiana Dunes Visitors Center.
Completed in November 2012, the report by Kentucky-based Certec Inc. compared the two years and revealed an uptick in economic growth on all fronts including direct expenditures, tax revenues, jobs and wages, said Executive Director Lorelei Weimer.
She said this is the fourth survey Certec has done for Indiana Dunes Tourism since 1994, and looked at spring, summer and fall seasons. The survey cost more than $5,200.
“We do this survey for four reasons – to better understand the economic impact tourism has in Porter County; the spending behavior of visitors; to understand the markets and to provide an evaluation for developers who want to invest in attractions here,” Weimer said.
The report said the tourism and travel industry contributed nearly $348.3 million to Porter County’s economy in 2011, an increase of more than $36.7 million over 2009. Those figures includes direct spending by tourists which accounted for $244.3 million of that total.
Direct spending includes goods and services such as lodging, food and beverages, gasoline, souvenirs, admission fees, entertainment or other retail goods. The greatest growth was in lodging sector, said Jim Carr, president of Certec via phone at the conference.
Visitors who stay at overnight at hotels spend an average of $100 each day, he said.
“If we can get those day visitors to the Dunes to stay two nights, we can net an extra $20 million annually,” Weimer said.
“Those direct expenditures create a ripple-like effect through the economy, generating an additional $100 million in indirect expenditures by businesses in the area,” Carr said.
Other highlights of the study include the following:
- Tourism generated an increase in tax revenues to government in 2011 of $82 million, or more than $7.5 million over 2009. Of that, $30.1 million went to the state, $16.2 million locally and $35.6 million to the federal government.
- Porter County residents spent an additional $14.9 million with the local tourism industry in 2011, which created 224 jobs.
- A total of 4,743 jobs in Porter County resulted from the tourism industry in 2011, compared to 4,496 in 2009. Direct expenditures by visitors accounted for 3,679 of those jobs, and the jobs were spread throughout the county
- More than one-third of the jobs created were in high wage occupations such as professional and technical, managerial, sales, construction, craftsman and operatives.
- Attractions and lodging sectors accounted for more than three-fifths of all direct spending.
- The leisure market drew 79 percent of the 2.8 million destination visitors to Porter County. The convention/business segment attracted 17 percent, while the sports market accounted for 4 percent of those visiting the county.
- An additional 2.5 million pass-through highway travelers also helped create “the extensive network of attractions, lodging properties, restaurants and specialty shopping that exists in the county,” the report states. “The mix of visitors from the tourism sectors has provided a balance to the local tourism industry.”
- The importance of the interstate and toll highways and local attractions in Porter County “continues to be substantial,” according to the report.
- Businesses that couldn’t survive if dependent only on local resident spending flourish because of visitor spending and its growth.
“Tourism is a large, growing business in Porter County.” Carr said.