Tourism still a big industry in Steuben Co.

March 7th, 2017

By Mike Marturello | KPC News - The Herald Republican

Tourism continues to be a big industry in Steuben County, said data presented to the Steuben County Innkeeper’s Tax Commission on Friday.

Direct spending by visitors was $165 million based on the most recent data available.

This results in the generation of nearly $11 million in local taxes and $20 million in state taxes.

Brining visitors to Steuben County has been concentrated in many forms of marketing, but the shift has changed greatly in recent years from more traditional forms of media to internet-based sources.

“The social media, we find it interesting,” said June Julien, executive director of the Steuben County Tourism Bureau, whose efforts are funded by the innkeeper’s tax that is charged of people staying in hotels and other short-term lodging. “It’s very targeted, it’s very tight.”

Travel information sources for Steuben County predominantly is electronic. People learn about the county through the internet (79.8 percent), friends and relatives (38.4 percent) and newspapers and magazines (7.2 percent). People surveyed by an independent firm allowed respondents to choose more than one answer, thus making the total equal greater than 100.

About 51 percent of visitors to the county were overnight guests, staying either at hotels (32 percent) or campgrounds (19 percent). There were 35 percent of visitors who came to Steuben County for attractions, like the wineries, outlet shopping or Pokagon State Park.

The Tourism Bureau uses social media in a variety of ways, relying heavily on Facebook for targeted, niche marketing, and Twitter for more of a shotgun approach.

Interestingly, it was a promotion first launched on Twitter that gained much attention for the bureau last year. Right after the Chicago Cubs won the National League pennant and earned a spot in the World Series against Cleveland, the bureau quickly put together a promotion to tell social media users that Steuben County was the half-way point between the two cities.

Potawatomi Inn ended up booking 54 rooms that could be attributed to the World Series and most likely the promotion, said Tom Pete of Potawatomi Inn.

The bureau received attention in newspapers and on television for the promotion, which added to the buzz created by the ads and tweets on social media.

Julien said the bureau is up for an industry award for the promotion.

In addition to its work to attract visitors to the land of 101 lakes, the bureau spent a lot of time in 2016 working on the Indiana Bicentennial celebration, which culminated with the Bicentennial Torch Relay on Oct. 2 in the vacinity of Pokagon.

While the state didn’t provide a budget to local organizations for the bicentennial, the bureau did provide about $25,000 in funds. That doesn’t include staff time. Beyond what was done out of the Tourism Bureau office, much of the work was by volunteers, led by Steuben County Historian Peg Dilbone, Fremont.

“Not every county has a Peg Dilbone, so thank you, Peg,” said Marcia Drewes, Innkeeper’s Tax Commission member.

Beyond a variety of local expenditures on special events, including the centennial celebration of the Steuben County Soldier’s Monument, the bureau will spend about $100,000 this year to promote tourism to the county.

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