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Tourism promotion begins at home

Most Harrison Countians know of the many attractions located in our backyard as well as those in neighboring Crawford and Floyd counties. They are places we often visit ourselves: historical sites, such as the First State Capital or Battle of Corydon, caves, wineries, parks, casino, movie theater, music venues, unique shops and restaurants.
Many of our friends and neighbors depend on people patronizing these places, as well as our hotels, for their livelihood.
Now, those places that make this area attractive as a tourist spot need us to help promote them. That’s because one of the sources for spreading the word about all the area has to offer has fallen victim to the economy. The Indiana Office of Tourism Development had its budget cut by about 23 percent, from $4.8 million to $3.7 million. Locally, this reduction translates to the removal of travel counselors from the Interstate 64 Welcome Center.
Jim Epperson, executive director of the Harrison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, last week said a temporary contract has been reached that will allow travel counselors to be at the welcome center at least 16 hours a week for the next four months, compared to seven days a week before the budget cuts, and brochures highlighting places of interest will still be stocked at the welcome center for people to pick up in hopes they will be enticed to get off I-64 and spend some time, as well as some of their money, in our area.
Undoubtedly, this is not as ideal as having the welcome center staffed full time with people who are familiar with everything we have to offer. The lack of these folks means there will be no trained persons at the eastern gateway to Harrison County to answer questions, provide directions, make suggestions or offer tips to those who stop by the welcome center either specifically for any of those things or to use the facility then realize they’ve stumbled into a tourist area.
According to a study done in 2004 by Purdue University, the average visitor, both gaming and non-gaming, to our area spends $235. That’s a large chunk of change to lose if people don’t know what we have to offer.
Hopefully, when the new fiscal year begins July 1, state tourism funds will improve, but the prediction is there will be even more cuts.
So, it’s up to us to help promote everything that makes us unique. As your out-of-town friends and family begin talking about what they might do for their vacation this year or just a weekend getaway, don’t hesitate to tell them what’s available here. Their visit and subsequent spending here can help keep our businesses thriving.