Hamilton County Tourism earns Trailblazer status
When compared to peers around the country, Hamilton County Tourism ranked among the most progressive, according to DesintationNEXT survey results, that charts destination marketing organizations internationally on stability, product offerings and how they are perceived by their communities.

Hamilton County Tourism ranked in the “Trailblazer” category, indicating its among those destinations that are visionary and active. That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to do, however.

The survey, sent to community, civic, economic development and government leaders and leaders of local attractions, not only showed where HCT was doing well, but also where there are some gaps in the county’s tourism product. The results will be used to develop long-term strategies.

The online survey measured everything from the types of attractions available, access of hotels, quality of facilities, major conferences and events and sports.

The results showed that Hamilton County is a strong destination for tourism and is poised for future success. HCT has stable funding and a staff with expertise in tourism. In addition, HCT effectively markets the community and has an impact in the marketplace.

“This validated several things we knew, but also brought to the forefront things we didn’t know, and that will help us prioritize,” said Karen Radcliff, Hamilton County Tourism vice president/chief strategy officer.

While Hamilton County scored well in several categories, including its quality of parks, attractions and events, the survey found some gaps. This included lack of nightlife to attract and appeal to visitors, lack of public Wi-Fi in areas throughout the county and lack of public transportation.

HCT will use the survey results in addition to one-on-one meetings it had with local attractions to better understand market conditions and challenges.

“This insight, along with the survey results, gives us the kind if intelligence we need to develop long-term strategies,” Radcliff said. “We’re working to put together recommendations for marketing and product development that will act as a blueprint for the next 10 years.”

Tourism Gives
Hamilton County Tourism invested more than $80,000 in 44 grants to local organizations, communities and events for 2016. These operating grants support organizations with funds to support sustainability. Grants will help such organizations as the Atlanta Earth Festival, Carmel International Festival and Carmelfest, 4-H Fairgrounds, Lights over Morse, Fishers Freedom Festival, Westfield Rocks and Noblesville Parks Department among others.

In addition to these grants, HCT also awarded $26,000 in grants to support Bicentennial events and activities. Since 2005, HCT has invested more than $7 million as part of its annual grants program – Tourism Gives – which includes community development grants, enterprise funds for visionary projects, special projects and events.

Tourism Gives Operating Grants support tourism-focused organizations, events and festivals and are awarded annually. Additionally, Hamilton County Sports Authority also offers sports-related grants.

“Every year, we budget funds that go directly to our communities to help them manage and grow their events, venues and festivals because we know having successful attractions, events and festivals entices people to visit and come back year-after-year,” said Sarah Buckner, who leads the Tourism Gives program. “Not only are we helping support tourism, but we’re improving the quality-of-life for residents.”

Organizations interested in grants, can apply online.

Welcome new staff member
Annie Burris joins the Hamilton County Tourism team as a sales coordinator. Burris, who graduated from Indiana University-Purdue University with a degree in tourism, conventions and event management, will help grow the number of special events, conferences and weddings at Hamilton County venues.

Before joining HCT in April, Burris was an event coordinator for Signature Banquets in Lowell. Burris also interned at The Allure, a wedding venue in Northwest Indiana, and the Marvis Arts & Event Center in Indianapolis.