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In today's tourism environment show and tell is dead.

"What travelers want today is to fill their emotional bank accounts," Joe Veneto told more than 200 people Wednesday at the Indiana Welcome Center.

"They want to know what can we do? Will it be fun? And what memories can we collect?"

Veneto, aka the Opportunity Guy, gave his "Engineering Experiences" pep talk as part of the annual tourism luncheon produced by the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority for National Travel and Tourism Week.

He pointed to examples he has experienced such as having "Billie Holiday" sing to him at the Hotel Metropolitan, in Paducah, Kentucky; being asked if he wanted his horoscope at the Firesky Resort and Spa, in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona; or being offered sugar cookies by a little Amish lady in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

All without knowing it, those places were hewing to Veneto's "Experience Formula." The key is to provide customers with memories, so they become ambassadors for the destination.

"When those emotional bank accounts are full, you create a buzz," Veneto said.

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South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Speros Batistatos said Veneto was brought in to help his organization and others in the Northwest Indiana tourism business learn more about how they can engineer experiences for customers.

They will learn more Thursday at a tourism workshop put on by Veneto from 9 to 11:30 a.m. There are still openings for anyone who wants to attend.

Batistatos said his organization has already implemented Veneto's emphasis on experiential tourism with many small touches throughout the Welcome Center and in working with hotels and clients throughout Northwest Indiana.

"That's something we work on every day," Batistatos said. "I won't tell you we're the best in the business, but it's something we continually work on."

At the luncheon, Batistatos talked about what might be exhibit A: the moving of the John Dillinger Museum from the Welcome Center in Hammond, to the Lake County Courthouse in Crown Point, near where the infamous bank robber was actually jailed.

The museum has had as many visitors since its move eight months ago as it had in more than a decade at the Welcome Center, he said.

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