BEDFORD — Visitors continue to spend money in southern Indiana, according to a newly released study, proving that tourism has a noticeable economic impact on the region.
“Tourism creates a broad variety of jobs in our region. Success in this industry is important to the people who live in our region, and we believe it’s important that they directly see the benefits,” said Radius Indiana President and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Quyle in a news release. “It helps to relieve the tax burden of households in the region, as well as benefit over 3,700 public school students.”
The study by Rockport Analytics shows visitor spending totaling $283.4 million, increasing $11.8 million from the previous year and a regional economic impact of $206.2 million.
The study compared tourism data during a two-year period for Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Orange and Washington counties and includes jobs in the industry directly supporting the visitor, such as hotel accommodations, as well as in supply chain sectors such as transportation.
Highlights of the study show Orange County had the largest amount of tourism spending for the region, as well as an increase in four of the five expenditure categories; Washington County recorded a 17 percent increase in retail sales during the study period.
In Lawrence County, the study notes visitor spending was up 5.6 percent this year. For the Radius region, Lawrence County ranked fourth for tourism, and in the state, it ranked 48th out of 92 counties.
“When it comes to tourism, I feel that we are all a region,” said Lawrence County Tourism Executive Director Tonya Chastain. “When I talk to visitors, I don’t talk or define us by our boundaries, but rather, I promote what this entire region has to offer visitors, because we all need to work together to make tourism a vital economic force in Indiana.”
This year, Spring Mill State Park saw an across-the-board increase in its revenues. That, Chastain said, affects the entire region.
“I think we’ve become smart in how we’ve targeted our marketing, too,” Chastain said. “We know how to find the people who want to come here, so we’ve focused our dollars on a digital marketing campaign that reaches the various demographics interested in southern Indiana.”
She also expects the innkeeper’s tax receipts to be up this year in Lawrence County.
The Indiana Office of Tourism Development and Radius Indiana commissioned the study. It shows that the region’s tourism employment growth was more than 5 percent in 2016 and is the seventh largest industry in the Radius region, the news release stated.
“This report shows how important tourism is as an economic driver for the state of Indiana and that its impact continues to grow,” said Mark Newman, IOTD’s executive director. “We’re excited to see how tourism will continue to impact Indiana through future studies.”
Radius Indiana facilitates a regional tourism advisory council, and the group will use the study to create new initiatives that will support this vital part of the local economy. The group is currently exploring a regional tourism branding initiative that could create an identity for the region and surrounding counties in southern Indiana.
“The data shows us that 73 cents of every $1 spent on tourism stayed in the local economy and saves our taxpayers about $375 per year in taxes. This savings is money that can be directly put back into businesses right here in the Radius region,” Quyle said.
Radius Indiana is a regional economic development partnership representing eight counties in southern Indiana: Crawford, Daviess, Dubois, Greene, Lawrence, Martin, Orange and Washington. Formed in 2009, Radius Indiana also serves as a point of contact in Indiana for Naval Support Activity Crane and leads regional collaboration by leveraging the diverse assets of southwest central Indiana to drive attraction, retention and expansion of business, thereby increasing employment and investment opportunities and quality of life within the region.