Ad Campaign Moves to Fall
Hotels here will be busy this summer. So busy, in fact, that Hamilton County Tourism will shift its traditional summer ad campaign to late summer and early fall, when there will be more hotel room availability. The $300,000 TV, print and digital advertising campaign will promote one of the county’s best seasons to highlight.

About half of the adverting campaign will focus on the Chicago-area market in both TV and in Chicago Magazine. The other half will go toward online digital formats to reach new markets in Columbus, Grand Rapids, Lansing, Milwaukee, St. Louis and South Bend in addition to Champaign, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton, Evansville and Fort Wayne. Last year’s digital buy returned well on investment.

“While the ad campaign will look similar to the 2014 campaign, we will updating image with new fall photography to showcase why Hamilton County makes a great getaway in late summer or early fall,” said Ashley Ledford, director of marketing and promotions. “This will complement other promotions we’re doing to draw day trippers to Hamilton County this summer.”

The ad campaign will include more than 13.6 million impressions.

Tourism also purchased sponsorships on Trip Advisor for each Hamilton County city and town. Because people search by a specific town or city – not a county – tourism created individual pages for each community. The online pages promote events and attractions with lots of photography to capture the interest of potential visitors.

An ongoing Google, “pay-per-click” campaign promotes Hamilton County as a leisure destination touting golf and promoting the area’s wedding venues. This means HCT pays to buy keywords when internet users are looking for vacations.

While most of the advertising campaign is created to attract leisure travelers, Hamilton County Tourism this year bought space with Cvent, which is an online site specifically for meeting and event planners. Almost immediately, advertising on the site resulted in several requests for proposals from event planners.

Do It Outiside
There is plenty to do this summer in Hamilton County, especially outside, so Hamilton County Tourism has inked a partnership with Do It Outdoors, an organization that promotes events through social media channels. Do It Outdoors will work to increase social media engagement at Klipsch Music Center. An enthusiastic street team will take photos of people who enter the venue for the Luke Bryan concert July 24. Photos will be either emailed or texted to the individuals, who are then asked to share them on social media. When they do, they can be entered into a contest to win prizes, such as more concert tickets. Do It Outdoors took more than 500 photos during the Lady Antebellum concert in May. It’s expected to do even more at Luke Bryan.

In addition to two concerts at Klipsch, Do It Outdoors will take to Segways during Taste of Tippecanoe and Taste of Bloomington to promote Hamilton County in a campaign called “Walk it off in Hamilton County.” “All the attendees will be there to eat, so we thought this would be a fun way to promote all the trails in Hamilton County by encouraging people to walk,” Ledford said.

The Do It Outdoors Segway team will also promote new ways to discover outdoor recreation in Hamilton County, which includes an updated section on VisitHamiltonCounty.com, a new recreation app available for download, and Carmel’s new bike share locations.

It’s Worth the Drive to Dine
Hamilton County is becoming a dining destination, and Tourism is working to promote that. A new dining guide shows off some of Hamilton County’s tastiest places. The guide is featured in two magazines, Edible Indy and Bloom in Bloomington. In addition, about 6,000 guides will mail to residents in Lafayette and West Lafayette. Recent research has shown an increase in the number of people from Lafayette and Bloomington who drive to Hamilton County specifically for dining. The tastiest trail, of course, is Hamilton County’s Tenderloin Trail. Tenderloin Tuesdays return in July where participating restaurants will offer special deals on tenderloins. Find out more at www.TenderloinTrail.com.

Weather and Basketball Impact Hotels in First Quarter
Winter weather and events impacted first quarter occupancy numbers in Hamilton County this year. The 2014 Polar Vortex drove hotel rooms due to sudden snowstorms stranding travelers and from power outages. Basketball also is to blame. Indianapolis hosted a regional NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament in 2014, but not in first quarter 2015. Of course, Indy did host the Final Four in April, and Hamilton County hotels welcomed lots of basketball fans, which will help them rebound in second quarter 2015, in addition to high demand from Grand Park spring tournaments.

Hotels are Filling Up
It’s going to be a busy summer in Hamilton County. Thanks to multiple events on some weekends bringing a lot of out-of-town guests, most hotels are tracking sellouts or at near capacity June 11-13, 25-27and July 9-11 and 20-25.