Indiana Dunes Tourism's outreach programs have led to some impressive gains,
consultant Mitch Nichols of Nichols Tourism Group said Thursday.
In a conference call with the Porter County Tourism Board, Nichols compared
its statistics to those of six Northern Indiana counties combined. In nearly
every category, IDT outperformed the average, sometimes markedly so.
Overall, 2,360 people completed surveys. Of the 319 IDT people surveyed,
two-thirds came to the Indiana Dunes after obtaining travel information from
Because of viewing or having those materials, Nichols continued, 34 percent
visited more attractions/activities than they originally planned, 28 percent
increased the amount of time spent here, 21 percent of them specifically in
IDT executive director Lorelei Weimer said in 1994 the average stay was one
day. Now it's 2.6 days, and Nichols said the average visitor group was 3
persons who are significantly younger than most travelers.
When visitors compare their Indiana Dunes trip to similar trips they've
taken in the past three years, 42 percent said they had a better or
significantly better experience here.
About 40 percent have traveled to the Indiana Dunes four or more times, 10
points higher than Northern Indiana generally. The challenge, said Nichols,
is to keep visitors coming back on multiple occasions.
He agreed with IDT's approach to using the Indiana Dunes as an anchor to
pull visitors in while marketing other nearby attractions/events. Those
surveyed said outdoor recreation was dominant in their selected activities
here, but there could be more shopping and dining used, said Nichols.
Weimer said she believes Porter County has excellent dining choices,
something IDT has promoted through an association with Midwest Living
magazine. Special promotions, like the current Northern Indiana "Burger
Wars", create interest.
Octave Grill in Chesterton won in the burger balloting; second-place
Franklin House in Valparaiso also advances representing Porter County to
face off against six other Northern Indiana county's winners.
Nichols said IDT's website promotions like "What's New" and special offers
and savings are how to tap new/returning visitor markets.
The Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail campaign is catching on to give
visitors to the Indiana Dunes and Dunes National Lakeshore parks reason to
extend their stay, he continued, and the 3 Dune Challenge launched last week
Weimer said some people mistakenly think because Mt. Baldy is closed, all
the Indiana Dunes are closed. The 3 Dune Challenge promotion wants to
counteract that perception. Special marketing and signage help Dunes State
Park visitors find and hike a trail to climb the Mt. Tom, Mt. Jackson and
Mt. Holden dunes.
Being marketed to both families and athletes, Weimer said IDT is working to
expand the trail to 10K for extreme-sports enthusiasts in addition to the
current 1.5-mile trail.
In other business, the Tourism Board approved a 2015 budget to forward for
review; it reflects a $20,097 reduction. Also, this month Porter County
Commissioners will receive draft reports regarding the expo center
redevelopment and sports development study.
IDT staff is meeting to discuss the advantages of reviving the individual
branding efforts within local communities.