Huntington County sees tourism growth in latest annual report
By Clay Winowiecki for the Herald-Press | Indiana Economic Digest
Spending by visitors to Huntington County totaled $25.3 million in 2017, according to a new report on the economic benefits of tourism.
According to the Huntington County Visitors and Convention Bureau’s report, $5.3 million was spent on lodging, $9.6 million on food and beverage, $5.6 million on retail, $1.5 million on entertainment and recreation and $3.3 million on transportation.
According to Jessica Grossman, executive director of the visitors bureau, tourism is highly important to local businesses.
“It’s a really large economic driver,” she said. “We bring a lot of people from out of the area to spend money.”
That tourism translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue for the county.
Hotel occupancy levies brought in $152,900 in 2017, $30,000 in Indiana corporate taxes, $136,000 in Indiana personal income tax and $702,000 in local property taxes.
According to Grossman, if Huntington County tourism didn’t exist, each of the county’s 16,063 households would pay an additional $167 per year in taxes to maintain state and local tax levels.
Tourism also equates to 1.9 percent of all jobs in the county, according to the report. This makes it the county’s 14th largest industry.
Some of the most common jobs in that 2 percent figure include hotel workers and workers at attractions such as Camp Timber Lake, Grossman said.
“(Tourism) has a huge impact for Huntington County,” said County Commissioner Larry Buzzard. “Our tourism commission is funded by one percent of the innkeepers tax spent in Huntington County ... so we rely on that money to promote tourism.”
In recent years, tourism numbers have maintained a slow growth.
“It’s stable but its growing,” Grossman said. “I like to look at it as a sustainable growth. The figures we saw from the economic impact study were really what we wanted to see.”
Grossman added that while there’s not a large tourism upswing, there’s no reason for there to be one.
“What we’re doing is really effective to get new people to utilize the assets in the county,” she added.
To market the county, the visitor’s bureau balances a mix of radio and social media marketing strategies.
“Our job is marketing the assets in the county,” she said. “We don’t invest in any specific tourism business. We promote the assets the county has.”
According to Grossman, social media has allowed the county to hone in on specific demographics who enjoy activities such as dining out, shopping or recreational activities.
“We have a pretty diverse group of businesses here in the county, (so) we can really target (a wide range of consumers),” she added.
Grossman said the most challenging aspect of promoting the county’s tourism is its limited budget, so they need to be strategic about how funds are used.
“Trying to keep (marketing efforts) really balanced throughout ... such a diverse community ... has been a tricky balance to maintain,” she said. “You’re trying to leverage resources to these smaller communities.”