In support of a joint resolution of Congress in 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation designating the first full week in May as National Travel and Tourism Week.
In that same year on July 1st, the Lake County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was established to champion the power of travel in Northwest Indiana. After 25 years of diligent work promoting the area from Chicago to New Buffalo as a travel and tourism destination, LCCVB was rebranded the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
“Our partners run the gamut from the Chicago White Sox to Fair Oaks Farms in Newton County and Serenity Springs in LaPorte County,” South Shore CVA President/CEO Speros Batistatos said. “As an organization, we learned a long time ago that it’s important to view our industry and our products and the services we offer – not through prismatic boundaries – but through the eyes of our customer. Our approach to marketing has always had a regional focus. It’s customer-driven and research-supported. That’s the business model by which we operate.”
According to the US Travel Association, travel and tourism generated $2.0 trillion in economic output for the US economy in 2012. The industry also represents one of America's largest employers, supporting 14.6 million jobs (including 7.7 million directly in the travel industry and 6.9 million in other industries). Direct spending by domestic and international travelers averaged $2.3 billion a day, $97.7 million an hour, $1.6 million a minute and $25,125 a second.
“Travel is a force that can drive our nation's economic recovery. It is one of the healthiest sectors in terms of job creation and hiring, employing one out of every eight Americans,” Roger Dow, President and CEO of US Travel said. “We are galvanizing support to spread awareness of the ‘Travel Effect’ to showcase the power of our industry, and its impact on not only our economy and businesses, but also on our health, education and relationships.”
In celebration of National Tourism Week, the South Shore CVA hosted numerous events at the Indiana Welcome Center. Highlights include the release of the 2013-14 Visitor’s Map featuring attractions, dining, festivals and hotels along Lake Michigan. Along with the iconic “Just Around the Corner” South Shore poster, the photograph on the map’s cover is the winning image from the 2012 Summer Fun along the South Shore photo contest. Tourist Scott Keithley, who was visiting family in Lowell from the Moody Air Force Base in Georgia with his son Aiden, snapped the winning entry during a full day of fun playing on the beach and hiking in the dunes.
“While the lakeshore is only one facet of what the region offers, Keithley’s photograph really illustrates the kind of family-fun that can be found along the South Shore,” Batistatos said. “It’s a great example of how we look at the product through the eyes of our customer. We’re one of the few government agencies that needs to get up everyday and earn market share. There are 6,000 hotel rooms in Northwest Indiana and 4,000 of those are in Lake County. Our goal is to fill every room every night of the week, 365 days of the year.”
With a consistent track record demonstrating how the South Shore CVA’s efforts impact the profitability of small, locally-owned businesses, Batistatos credits the continued support of more than 150 private partners who span five Indiana counties as well as the city of Chicago.
“Our job is heads on beds, cheeks in seats,” he explained. “These people are members of our organization because we get results. Our message is very direct as to where we are, our assets and our strengths. Our largest market comes from the Indianapolis area and Chicago. It’s incumbent upon us to provide the information they want in one stop, on one website.”
Also during National Travel and Tourism Week, the South Shore CVA hosted a luncheon with presentations that focused on a look back at where the organization has come from and where it is headed, including the announcement of plans for a very special 30th Anniversary celebration, before turning the spotlight on some very special individuals.
“Leading up to July 1st, we will be unveiling a handful of the up and coming stars – hospitality innovators and leaders who are the ‘Face of Tourism’ in Northwest Indiana – each week,” Batistatos said. “We honored the first six impressive stars at our luncheon last week.”
The South Shore CVA wrapped up National Travel and Tourism Week with their traditional “Kick Off the Summer” free event, which brings together local attractions, events, giveaways and activities for families. This year’s participants included:
Albanese, Cabela’s, Challenger Learning Center, Pierogi Fest, RailCats, South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail, Downtown Hammond Council, Lake County Fair, City of Crown Point, Gary Parks Department, Hammond Parks Department, Munster Parks Department, NWI Oilmen and the Hammond Port Authority.
Look for the South Shore Tour Mobile out and about this summer, especially as it makes its way across the region promoting “30 Stops in 30 Days” in July.