Talk about a rebound.
Hotel occupancy is up. Brochure demand sees triple-digit increase.
Anyone who’s been out and about in Hamilton County can tell you there are more cars in hotel parking lots, more people in local restaurants and longer lines at Conner Prairie’s Headless Horseman. Tourism is on the rebound, and Hamilton County is leading the way in the Midwest.
While the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s ad campaign typically winds down in September, this year, the bureau extended advertising into fall looking to improve on already record-breaking stats.
Hotel occupancy and room demand both are up 7 percent over 2011, making Hamilton County a leader in the Midwest. Other stats that point to the tourism rebound: a 200-percent increase in brochure requests; a 600-percent increase in the number of people signing up for the HCCVB’s e-newsletter.
Executive Director Brenda Myers said the increase comes from a combination of factors including an uptick in the economy, sporting events, such as the BMW Championship, new attractions, targeted advertising and aggressive website marketing.
“We know people go online searching for things to do and places to go,” Myers said. “While we’ve done website marketing for years, this year, we deployed a full-court press to optimize our website, and turn virtual visitors into in-person visitors.”
The strategy has paid off. Organic results (those coming from key word searches) made up for 37 percent of website visitors, the largest number the bureau has ever seen. About 80 percent of those searches originated from Google searches. In addition, visitors also are spending more time on the website. The average time spent at 8GreatTowns.com increased 70 percent.
HCCVB launched a fall ad campaign promoting fall festivals on radio stations in Fort Wayne and Louisville and in newspapers in Fort Wayne, Louisville, Bloomington Lafayette and Indianapolis through Oct. 15.
The marketing strategy is to connect visitors to Hamilton County, and often that means driving them to the website first.
“Our goal is to optimize the website so we’re getting the best performance possible,” said Deputy Director Karen Radcliff. “Already, we’ve moved up 55 spots on Google searches, and we’re also seeing more traffic from Twitter and Facebook. The positive results not only have meant more visitors, but it’s giving our partners and communities a lot of optimism as they plan for 2013.”
Taking the stage in Fishers
The Fishers Summer Concert Series is getting a new home, and the community is getting a new entertainment venue at Fishers Switch Amphitheater. Funded in part by the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the outdoor theater will be the hub for the new Nickel Plate District.
The theater debuted Oct. 13 with a grand-opening celebration. On Oct. 27, youth musicians performed on the stage during the Fishers Music Festival. Next up: The Nov. 29 tree lighting ceremony. The outdoor stage will be home to the popular Summer Concert Series, the Farmers’ Market, holiday programs and special events throughout the year.
The Nickel Plate District, which includes a three-mile path around town hall, pays homage to the Nickel Plate Line. It also is part of the 30-mile Nickel Plate Arts Trail that stretches from Fishers to Tipton connecting local artists and cultural attractions along the railroad line.
Honoring Westfield’s history
Westfield recently erected eight panels throughout Old Friends Cemetery Park, which helps tell the story of the city’s Quaker heritage and the role Westfield played in the Underground Railroad. The Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau awarded the city a grant to help fund the project.
Old Friends Cemetery Park is the site of Westfield’s first cemetery, which was established in the early 1830s. The panels help tell the story of how Quaker families moved from the South because of their opposition to slavery and founded Westfield. The eight panels include headings ─ such as Simplicity, Peace and Equality ─ that reflect the history and culture of Westfield. The park connects with Westfield’s trail system.