Although Lake County’s tourism bureau chief claimed at a Thursday news
conference to have outperformed Porter County in filling hotel rooms, he
actually provided incorrect numbers in one category and ignored two other
categories in which his county was outperformed, tourism officials said
Mitch Nichols, president of Nichols Tourism Group, a nationally-recognized
tourism strategy and planning group, said Porter County actually
outperformed Lake County by significant margins in boosting room demand and
room revenue during 2011.
Porter County’s rooms sold increased by 9.3 percent in 2011 when compared to
2010. Lake County’s rooms sold increased by 5 percent during that same
period, according to the Smith Travel Accommodations Report (STAR).
“Porter County’s growth in room demand far exceeded other competitors and
was 86 percent above that of Lake County,” Nichols said.
“If Porter County did not have a 9.3 percent increase in rooms sold, but
rather had the same 5 percent growth that Lake County had, there would have
been 15,000 fewer room nights sold in Porter County.”
Nichols also pointed out that the STAR statistics show Porter County’s room
revenue grew 11.2 percent in 2011, better than the 8.1 percent growth in
Also, Lake County tourism’s president and CEO, Speros Batistatos, said at a
news conference that Lake County’s hotels had a 60 percent occupancy rate
when compared to Porter County’s 42 percent. However, Porter County actually
had a 54.6 percent hotel occupancy rate, according to STAR statistics.
“Porter County was able to have a banner year in generating new lodging
demand,” Nichols said.
Nichols said strong marketing initiatives like the Beyond the Beach
Discovery Trail and a strengthened web presence by Indiana Dunes Tourism,
Porter County’s official tourism bureau, are proving successful.
“A tourism bureau can’t take 100 percent credit for room demand growth and
while a variety of factors go into Porter County’s above average growth
rate, Indiana Dunes Tourism’s initiatives were certainly important factors,”
Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said visitors
contribute more than $300 million each year to Porter County’s economy, and
she said visitor spending grew in Porter County even during the recession.
“Our focus has been to not only attract visitors, but to get the 3 million
people who visit the Indiana Dunes each year to extend their stay and take
advantage of the great dining, shopping, attractions and lodging throughout
Porter County,” Weimer said.
Weimer said Porter County, in addition to seeing a growth in hotel rooms
sold, also saw a net gain in the number of restaurants during 2011, with new
restaurants opening like Masala Jack’s, Valley Kitchen & Bar, Villa Nova,
Sage, Zing’s Pizzeria, Big Daddy’s Genuine Barbecue, Meditrina Market Cafe,
Dickey’s Barbecue Pit, Chipotle Mexican Grill and The Boiler Room.
Indiana Dunes Tourism promotes tourism-related businesses like lodging
establishments, restaurants, stores and entertainment venues on its website
and in its publications.