Tourism keeps on giving
Tourism works on two levels to serve its community: through economic impact and by supporting quality of life. Because tourism is so important locally, Hamilton County Tourism devotes more than 20 percent of its annual budget to local community development initiatives. To strengthen the program, this year Hamilton County Tourism Gives was restructured and serves as an umbrella to connect tourism with community.

To participate in the revised Tourism Gives’ grant program, nonprofit and government organizations show how their event or project might be of interest to visitors and then apply to be a designated annual recipient. Once approved, they complete an annual “audit” to show how they engage with tourism. This engagement includes actions like providing HCT calendar information and actively linking to tourism social media channels. This helps Hamilton County Tourism better promote events and showcase what’s happening around Hamilton County to visitors and residents. In 2016, HCT distributed more than $100,000 in operating and special grants to more than 30 organizations.

HCT also expanded the Tourism Gives program to provide training to tourism-focused organizations on special topics. Last spring, Tourism Gives sponsored a training session for local hotels about illegal human trafficking and had experts help hoteliers understand how to be part of the solution. And Tourism Gives regularly supports social services agencies by providing silent auction gifts for fundraising efforts. HCT staff also now has paid time off to provide volunteer hours in the community.

Sarah Buckner serves as the Tourism Gives coordinator and will continue evolving how Hamilton County Tourism serves as a re-granting organization. “Tourism here saves each resident more than $900 in household taxes through the economic impact it makes,” Buckner said. “But we want tourism to mean more than just jobs and taxes. Through Tourism Gives, we can contribute in other ways to make Hamilton County a great place to live and visit.”

Anyone with questions about the program can contact Buckner at 317.848.3181 or by email (

It’s all about art
If you danced in the street in Noblesville this summer, strolled galleries in Carmel’s Arts and Design District or were among the thousands on the lawn at the Fishers Nickel Plate District Amphitheater enjoying a concert, you can tell pretty easily that people here like the visual and performing arts. In 2016, Hamilton County Tourism is measuring how arts and culture impact the local economy as participants in the Americans for the Arts and Prosperity study. This is the first year Hamilton County has participated in the program, which takes place every five years.

Headed by the Hamilton County Business Intelligence Center, a collaborative of Hamilton County Economic Development and Hamilton County Tourism, the year-long study will help the community better understand the economic power of arts and culture in Hamilton County. Americans for the Arts is a national organization that works with communities to help them cultivate, promote, sustain and support the arts. The study includes a comprehensive look at Hamilton County as a whole, in addition to specific reports from Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville.

Data is collected two ways. First, intercept surveys are completed at nearly every arts and culture related event in the county throughout 2016. The goal is to have at least 1,200 surveys with at least 400 each from Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville in order for the data to be sound. In July, organizations throughout the county received a survey to find out more about individual events. Americans for the Arts will tabulate all the data and present findings to community leaders in June 2017.

“We will get a big-picture view of arts and culture in Hamilton County as well as benchmarks to help us track progress in the future,” said Brad Coffing, the center’s research manager. “The goal is to understand what role the arts play in Hamilton County and help our communities with data when they seek grants or support for the arts locally.”

New staffers at Tourism
Katie Utken, a Butler University graduate with a degree in strategic communications and Spanish, joins Hamilton County Tourism as digital marketing coordinator for social media. She develops content and implements social media strategies. Ukten isn’t new to tourism or marketing. She was a marketing intern for Yelp Indy where she managed three social media platforms, wrote blog posts for Visit Indiana Insider and contributed to the international Yelp Community. She also contributed writing to Visit Indy.

Megann Kramer became the database assistant for Hamilton County Tourism in May and maintains the organization’s customer relations management systems. Kramer comes to Hamilton County from West Lafayette, where she was a sports marketing intern and visitor information specialist for Visit Lafayette. She graduated from Purdue University in May with a bachelor’s degree in hospitality and tourism management.

Predicting hotel trends for 2017
We don’t have a crystal ball, but we do have access to great information that can be helpful as hoteliers plan for 2017. While 2016 has been a record-breaking, yet unpredictable year, Hamilton County Tourism and Hamilton County Sports Authority will break down data and help hoteliers prepare for what could be an interesting 2017. You’ll hear it all firsthand during the webinar, 2017 Hotel Data Outlook, at 3 p.m., Aug. 30. Brad Coffing, research manager with the Hamilton County Business Intelligence Center and Brenda Myers, Hamilton County Tourism President/CEO, will talk about hotel pipeline, business pipelines, demand and revenue forecasts and more. To reserve a spot, email Annie Burris (

Download your Hamilton County Tourism Vision 2025 Plan