Hotel demand at record levels
Thank all those athletes playing at Grand Park. Thank the NCAA for bringing big tournaments to Indianapolis. Thank our growing business economy. Thank our great downtowns. They are boosting hotel stays in Hamilton County, making 2015 a record year – again.

“Our challenge this summer was finding enough hotel rooms for visitors, as hotels frequently were at capacity, especially weekends” said Brenda Myers, Hamilton County Tourism president. “Stats show we need additional rooms to meet the growing demand, especially as our sports sector continues to grow.”

Overall, demand is up 2.8 percent. This has caused some challenges this year as hotel rooms were sold out, and many would-be Hamilton County guests lodged in Indy or other surrounding counties. April saw the biggest increase – 26 percent – thanks to Grand Park events and the NCAA Final Four in Indianapolis.

The Westfield sports park accounted for almost 52,000 rooms through Labor Day for the region. In fact, Grand Park visitors make up 10 percent of weekend stays in Hamilton County so far this year. According to early estimates by the 2015 Stats Squad Study, Grand Park could result in demand for more than 95,000 hotel rooms a year.

Smith Travel Research predicts the average daily hotel rate to be up 4-6 percent for the final four months of the year. And, 2016 is already looking positive.

  • We’ll see increased business, including two new companies moving to Hamilton County, and 15 significant expansions.
  • Conner Prairie will debut new offerings.
  • Johnathan Byrd Fieldhouse opens in January at Grand Park, and the indoor field facility is slated to open next summer, bringing more sports and events year-round to the sports complex.
  • US 31 construction will finally be completed, and new signage will help direct guests to local hotels and attractions.
  • Local events will continue to spur demand, including the fifth annual Carmel Marathon, the BMW Championships and Indy-hosted events, including the Big Ten Women’s and Men’s tournaments and US Olympic Diving Team Trials.

Just the stats
Hamilton County Tourism staffers are canvassing local attractions, festivals and events conducting surveys to learn more about visitors – both locals and out-of-towners. The Stats Squad has surveyed nearly 1,200 people and will continue to collect information throughout the fall and winter, hitting festivals and sporting events.

In 2016, HCT will move to participating in an Americans for the Arts study. This comprehensive, economic impact study will focus on arts countywide but specifically in Carmel, Fishers and Noblesville. Americans for the Arts works with organizations that cultivate, promote, sustain and support the arts to help in America.

“Our Stats Squad has already been a huge success, and the information gathered at our local events, coupled with the more expansive Americans for the Arts study will arm us with information needed to increase the economic impact of tourism in Hamilton County,” Myers said.

Getting social
Hamilton County Tourism is giving its social media posts, blogs and Tweets a boost by using Facebook advertising to help drive messages to target audiences. While it’s only in the beginning phases, the strategy is already working.

Facebook ads have generated more than 4,000 visits to the website. One of the most popular ads promoted area fall festivals, and it drove 2,500 to the website.
“Facebook advertising is an inexpensive way to really target potential visitors,” said Emma Diebold, marketing coordinator. “We’re able to really target our message to reach people who are going to be the most likely to want to visit Hamilton County.”
Ads can be targeted by location, gender, income and even interest, so ads promoting trails and outdoors are targeted toward those on Facebook who like to bike and hike, for example. Foodies have responded really well to the popular video, “How to Eat a Tenderloin.”. More than 55,000 people watched the video on Facebook.
Facebook ads are targeted to the same geographic markets that are part of tourism’s print and radio advertising campaign, including Champaign, Illinois, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dayton, Ohio, Detroit, Evansville, Louisville and Paducah, Kentucky
So far the ads, which began in August, have reached more than 19,000 people. While reach and clicks to the website are important, so is the fact that many people who saw the ad are sharing it with their friends.