The threat of legal action in the ongoing battle between the three Northwest Indiana tourism agencies shows how far out of control this situation has become.
The LaPorte County commissioners last week voted to seek a legal opinion on tourism bureaus crossing county lines. What a waste of money and time.
Jack Arnett, executive director of the LaPorte County Convention & Visitors Bureau took umbrage at Lake County tourism officials being so involved in LaPorte County.
The South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority, based in Hammond, covers Lake, Porter, LaPorte, Jasper and Newton counties, according to Speros Batistatosk president and CEO. That's because tourism attractions in those counties want to do business with his agency. It's a good business decision. It reinforces the power of regional efforts.
Batistatos has long been a proponent of a regional tourism entity. He's right, too.
But this is Northwest Indiana, where political turf wars seem to be a favorite sport. And tourism efforts are hampered in the process.
Visitors don't care about county lines, and neither should those who try to bring tourists to the region.
Tourists spend money at local attractions, local hotels, local gas stations, local restaurants, local boutiques and more. It's big business for local economies. But recruiting those visitors is done more efficiently on a regional basis.
The continuing feud between Northwest Indiana's tourism agencies needs to stop, and it's going to take legislative action to make that happen.
Create a single regional tourism agency with a single regional board.
It is time for the Indiana General Assembly to create a regional tourism bureau rather than separate ones for each county. Carve up the state into a series of distinct regions, as is already the case for state institutions like Ivy Tech Community College.
This is all about increasing tourism revenue — bringing new dollars into the region — and not about political turf wars. Create an agency whose focus is on results, not territorialism.