Visitors like what they experience
Hamilton County Tourism recently completed a yearlong visitor study, and it shows people who visit – whether for sports, leisure or business – liked their experiences and overwhelmingly said they would want to return within the next 12 months.
Tourism talked to more than 1,200 people using intercept surveys at Grand Park, Conner Prairie, Klipsch Music Center, local hotels and other attractions, and then followed up with nearly 400 more in a longer-format, digital survey. It’s the most comprehensive survey Hamilton County Tourism has ever done, and it’s the first time sports and business travelers have been surveyed. While Bradley Coffing, research manager for tourism and Hamilton County Economic Development, continues to analyze the data, some trends were easy to identify.
“Overwhelmingly, people who visited Hamilton County had a great time and good experience,” Coffing said. “Grand Park is bringing new eyes to the county, and that’s pretty powerful, because these visitors tend to be highly educated, high-income earners, who are getting a taste of the quality of life and quality of attractions in Hamilton County. This shows what an important tool tourism is as part of the economic development strategy.”
More than half of the Grand Park visitors interviewed had never been to Hamilton County before, so that’s bringing in new people and new money. Of those surveyed, 83 percent said they were likely to return within the next year for another event or for leisure travel.
Another important finding: sports travelers tend to spend slightly higher than leisure travelers. The average per day, per person spending was $155, for those who spend the night, and $61 a day for those who are day visitors. Average overall spending for visitors is $148 per day, per person for overnight guests, and $49 a day for those who don’t stay overnight.
Tourism also talked to business travelers and hotels. About two-thirds of visitors said they had been to the county before and were coming back for training or sales trip. Of those who were first-time visitors, 84 percent said they were likely to come back within the next year.
The only complaint visitors had was construction, especially construction along the US 31 corridor, as the survey was conducted as the project was underway.
The full report will be released later this summer on the business page of the VisitHamiltonCounty.com.
Creating a tourism vision
While there’s no way to predict precisely what 2025 will look like, Hamilton County Tourism has done extensive due diligence relying on research, partner and stakeholder input and looked at all kinds of data to develop a vision that will take the organization through the next 10 years.
This yearlong journey of discovery ends this summer as Hamilton County Tourism chief strategy officer and vice president Karen Radcliff finalizes the Vision Plan 2025. Once it’s completed, it will be vetted by the same groups who provided that important input and approved by the HCT Board of Directors.
“The Vision Plan will outline practical steps that will provide our roadmap to execute strategies,” Radcliff said. “The plan also includes an annual planning process to allow HCT leadership the flexibility to adapt and pivot while forging forward in collaboration with its public and private partners.”
More than 1 billion people travel globally each year, and while only a small fraction of those visit Hamilton County, it’s important to note that visitors spend about $389 million annually on lodging, food and beverage, shopping, entertainment and more.
To continue to attract visitors, Tourism strivesto be experts in crafting messages and communicating ideas to engage and influence others, to move people to travel.
With this in mind, Vision Plan 2025 identifies the following deliverables:
- Recommendations for leadership, product development, marketing, sales and new business development, sport tourism, visitor experience and workplace technology and operations.
- An internal system that allows for annual adaptive plans that respond to new opportunities.
- Recommendations for reporting used to apply research and knowledge to business decisions and make for a fiscally sound, socially responsible and environmentally sensitive organization.
Examination of Hamilton County’s current situation revealed several key facts important in the plan development:
- Trailblazers. Hamilton County and Hamilton County Tourism continue to be pacesetters in the state and the nation.
- Hotel growth. Hamilton County is in a hotel growth phase with possible 50 percent inventory increases over the next three years.
- Game changers. Grand Park is a game changer not only for Hamilton County, but for central Indiana tourism. New potential conference and event facilities could be additional game changers over the next five to 10 years.
- Online impact. Digital communications and technology advances changes the tourism industry daily, and investments in Wi-Fi and wired connectivity are crucial.
- Gaining market share. Hamilton County cities and towns’ identities are maturing, but there is a need for investing in place and understanding the need for market share within many segments.
- The arts. The need for arts leadership is growing across the county.
- Thinking regionally. Hamilton County Tourism must determine its role in regional tourism growth.
While the plan is being finalized, work already is under way to initiate some findings in preparation for late 2016 and early 2017 implementation.
“Not only has this yearlong process revealed great information about Hamilton County, it gives all of us in the tourism industry much excitement and optimism about what the next decade will bring,” Radcliff said.
Hamilton County is prepared for mosquito season
As warmer temperatures usher in the outdoor recreation season, Hamilton County health officials begin their annual battle against mosquito-borne illness. And this year, the “Fight the Bite” campaign also aims to keep the Zika virus at bay in the United States. While health officials are confident the virus will likely not travel north, they nonetheless stay vigilant.
Landing innovation in national audience
Brenda Myers, HCT president and CEO, shared her insights about the benefits of tourism organizations working in partnership with local economic development organizations. Myers knows firsthand, of course, as HCT and Hamilton County Economic Development not only work together, but they share office space, share staff and research. The two organizations work together to collect and disseminate data on all of the stakeholder businesses affiliated with industry sectors that meet in the destination.
“We need to be more than marketing,” Myers told the online magazine Skift. “We need to be a business intelligence center, so that’s why we decided to work very, very closely together. We are awash in data, and we need some way to take that information and make it relevant and meaningful for people in our target markets.”
She also talked about the value for interested conference organizers.
“Now we’re much more attractive to meeting planners because we have a better understanding of our business climate, so it’s not just about the hotel rooms anymore,” Myers explained. “It’s about the content that we can connect them with. It’s all about content. It’s all about context, and we’re getting better and better at that. That is very much the new marketplace.”
The return of Tenderloin Tuesdays
Hoosiers – and visitors – love their tenderloins. To celebrate the flattened and breaded tenderloin, Hamilton County Tourism is bringing back Tenderloin Tuesdays, where 20 restaurnts will offer tenderloin deals every Tuesday June 28 to July 26. More than 2,300 tenderloins were sold during Tenderloin Tuesdays in 2015. Dooley O’Tooles sold a whopping 709 tenderloins during the special promotion a year ago.
HCT will promote Tenderloin Tuesdays with digital billboards along Fall Creek Parkway in Indianapolis, along Interstate 465, Interstate 65 and Indiana 267, as well as social media campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
All participating restaurants and deals will be listed on TenderloinTrail.com.