Hoosier tourism sector ready to welcome back visitors
Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Elaine Bedel, IDDC Secretary & CEO
Between our state forests, state parks, communities with unique stories and many more sites and events, Indiana has so much to offer visitors. It is important to showcase all our state’s amenities by shining a light on the impact of the hospitality and leisure industry.
This sector of our economy is huge for the state, with state tourism setting a record $13.7 billion in visitor spending in 2019. While the industry was hit hard in 2020, much like Hoosiers, this is an industry that is resilient and ready to make our state a destination for visitors once again.
Last year, COVID-19 quickly changed the impact on the entire industry. Nationally, total travel-supported jobs accounted for a staggering 65% of all U.S. jobs lost amid the pandemic. While Indiana was not immune to the pandemic, our tourism agency, the Indiana Destination Development Corp., was able to respond quickly. The IDDC took a different approach to Visit Indiana Week in 2020 with a series of videos showing the love and passion of tourism. Hoosiers shared what tourism means to them and the effects the coronavirus pandemic, serving as a reminder that we are truly in this together.
The IDDC would go on to roll out its The 20 IN 20 campaign to feature articles about outdoor recreation and activities that included social distancing, and partner with the Indiana Restaurant Lodging Association to elevate the Hoosier Hospitality Promise, ensuring and encouraging a safe re-opening of businesses. The IDDC also partnered with the Indiana Arts Commission to distribute relief funds to assist the industry. The Arts, Culture and Destination Marketing Organization Grant distributed $10 million of the COVID Relief funds to 479 grantees.
As we approach another Hoosier summer, we know more people are getting outdoors. The Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources saw an estimated 21% increase in property usage in 2020 compared to 2019. To further encourage people to get outside and visit our natural resources, the IDDC launched the Indiana State Nature Passport in partnership with the DNR. The free “digital passport” helps us discover new places, some of them near our own homes that we may not have known were there.
Tourism is experiencing some other bright spots, too. Indiana landed the entire NCAA tournament. Through the IDDC’s IN Crowd and Tourney Time campaigns, Indiana was in the national spotlight while showcasing what makes Indiana a great place to be. A number of Hoosiers, near and far, shared their Hoosier pride, including homegrown star David Letterman and Sage Steele.
The IDDC is committed to instilling Hoosier pride in every Hoosier. Many people have experienced life outside Indiana, born and raised somewhere else but chose to call Indiana their forever home. These are our Hoosiers By Choice, and more and more are sharing their stories publicly each week. Their stories can be found by visiting HoosiersbyChoice.com.
There is also a new recovery grant available to help Indiana’s hospitality industry. The Indiana Hospitality & Entertainment Grant program is available to Hoosier hotels, entertainment venues and promoters impacted throughout the pandemic. For more information, go to backontrack.in.gov.
We are encouraged by these positive steps to safely re-open tourism throughout Indiana.
The industry remains committed to seeing familiar faces, first-time visitors and getting back to pre-pandemic numbers of 80 million visitors a year. Hoosiers are encouraged to tell their family and friends to consider making Indiana their next vacation or destination. Learn more about what we have to offer at VisitIndiana.com.
Despite the hardships of the last year, Indiana is ready and eager to welcome everyone back safely.