Why do you have two names?

Because people mostly recognize our key destination driver, the Indiana Dunes, and many are unsure of what a convention and visitors bureau is, we decided to use a simpler name in our daily workings. Instead of our legal business name of Indiana Dunes, we adopted a “Doing Business As” name: Indiana Dunes Tourism.

What is your vision and mission?

We have a vision for our overall destination and a vision and mission statement for our organization.

Destination Vision:

Indiana Dunes Country is the premier, eco-friendly, sustainable Great Lakes destination that will be the recognized leader in:

  • Unparalleled parklands, trails and dunes,
  • Unique cultural communities, and
  • Family-friendly attractions and events.

Indiana Dunes Tourism Vision:

Indiana Dunes Tourism will be the engaged destination leader by supporting and marketing the county’s distinct visitor experiences and advocating community and regional tourism benefits.

Indiana Dunes Tourism Mission:

Indiana Dunes Tourism is the official agency for destination marketing, planning and development and a key economic driver of sustainable tourism growth in Porter County.

What are your goals?

Our goals are pretty straightforward: To attract visitors to our destination and to extend the stay of our visitors.

Why are visitors important?

Indiana Dunes Tourism is dedicated to improving the quality of life in Porter County. We do this through the tourism industry. Our goal is to import cash into our communities. The more cash we import through tourism, the more successful our communities will be. Visitors eat at our restaurants, shop at our stores, visit our attractions and stay at our hotels. They help support the area’s businesses that employ our residents and are enjoyed by all of us. As residents, we would be surprised at how many businesses would close without revenue from visitors.

How do you define a visitor?

Any person who travels 50 or more miles is considered a visitor.

What is the economic impact of visitors to our destination?

The economic impact is impressive. Here are some key economic facts:

  • $308 million are generated annually from visitor spending.
  • Spending increased by $83 million since 2000.
  • 4,500 jobs were created within Porter County.
  • Tourism employment grew by 14.5% from 2000 – 2007, which is 3.5 times the county average.
  • $77 million were paid in taxes by visitors, which saved residents an average of $1,175 annual taxes.

What are the travel trends?

Visitors are looking for unique experiences and do not want to travel to a destination that is similar to where they live. They want to experience attractions, stores and restaurants they cannot get in their backyard. So, destinations need to really highlight what makes their destination unique and sets them apart from their competitors.

Also, Green Tourism is no longer a fad, but a steadfast, long-term trend that cannot be ignored. More then ever, visitors are aware of the environment and want to protect it. Plus, nature-based tourism continues to grow, such as birding, hiking, biking and wildlife observation.

Visitors are also looking for dynamic, experiential activities instead of passive, non-participatory activities. If they want to get the true farm experience, they do not want to watch a cow being milked, they want to milk the cow themselves! To be successful, our destination must become more experiential and engaging to the visitor.

How is Indiana Dunes Tourism funded?

Indiana Dunes Tourism is funded through the innkeepers tax, also know as the visitor tax, which is its sole source of funding and is not funded by property or income taxes. The hotel collects the tax, and then submits it to the Porter County Treasurer minus their 0.89% administration fee to cover the processing. The Treasurer cuts a monthly check to Indiana Dunes Tourism and then we invest the visitor tax in promoting our destination.

Is Indiana Dunes Tourism a Not-For-Profit Organization?

No. Indiana Dunes Tourism is a department of Porter County Government. The Porter County Commissioners created us in 1985 under the Indiana Uniform Innkeepers Tax Law. The Porter County Council implemented the visitor tax and determined the percentage, then directed the funding to Indiana Dunes Tourism.

How are you governed?

We have an independent board of directors as directed by the state law to which we adhere. Our board is appointed by a variety of elected officials. Here are the appointing authorities:

  • Porter County Commissioners – 3 members
  • Porter County Council – 1 member
  • Mayor of Portage – 2 members
  • Mayor of Valparaiso – 1 member
  • Town of Burns Harbor, Chesterton and Porter – 1 member
  • Town of Hebron and Kouts – 1 member

How does Indiana Dunes Tourism achieve its mission and goals?

We achieve our mission and goals through the marketing and product development of Porter County. Our job is to market or tell the story of our destination. Visitors need information to make a decision on what destination they will visit and what to do in that destination. We provide the information through a variety of different tools, which includes:

  • Activities Guide: This is a comprehensive guide on the entire destination and is the key promotional piece we produce.
  • Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail Guide: This is a comprehensive guide on all of our nature-based and historical assets.
  • Fishing Guide: This guide tells both avid and leisure fisherman and women all the information they need to plan an enjoyable fishing trip.
  • Calendar of Events: This is a list of the festivals and events that occur throughout the year.
  • Hiking / Biking Guide: Hiking and biking continue to grow in popularity. This guide shows where all of our hiking trails are, plus it highlights the Prairie-Duneland Trail and the Indiana Dunes Country bike routes.
  • Birding Guide: Birding is one of the fastest growing recreational activities and due to our location on Lake Michigan, many birds pass through our area for both fall and spring migrations. The Birding Guide gives all the great birding locations for our area.
  • Website: Visitors are always researching their trip ahead of time and want instant information. Their source is the internet. Indiana Dunes Tourism just created a comprehensive website with seven other organizations in Northern Indiana. Our website can be accessed at www.indianadunes.com.

Indiana Dunes Tourism’s role

Indiana Dunes Tourism is considered a destination marketing organization because one of our main roles is to market the destination. Over the years, our role has expanded to include product development. Our goal is to look at our destination holistically and determine what our future development opportunities are. Our job is to be the master planner of tourism development within the county. We do not build or manage the development, but are a catalyst for the development.

What is considered “good” tourism product development?

Destinations want to be selective in the type of tourism development that occurs within their area. They want the development to compliment their communities, be unique and benefit both residents and visitors.

What type of development projects has Indiana Dunes Tourism been working on?

We have made some important strides in product development within our destination. Here is a list of current projects we are working on:

  • The Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail: This is a project that links over 50 nature-based and historical sites together in a thematic trail. This trail threads all of our communities together and extends the stay of our visitors.
  • The Dunes-Kankakee Trail: This is a multi-purpose trail that will link the Indiana Dunes in the northern part of the county to the Kankakee River in the southern part of our county. This is another project that threads all of our communities together and allows us to work in partnership with many of our community leaders.
  • Strategic Branding, Development and Marketing Plan for all of Porter County and nine of its communities: This project has refined the county’s brand and outlined key product development and marketing ideas. It also branded nine of Porter County’s communities, gave them product development and marketing ideas, and again, allowed us the opportunity to work with many of our community leaders, business owners, and others.

Why does Indiana Dunes Tourism put so much emphasis on marketing and promoting the Indiana Dunes?

We are competing with destinations all over the Midwest to get visitors from our key feeder markets of Chicago, Illinois and Indianapolis to our destinations. Visitors are drawn to major attractions and ours is the Indiana Dunes. Here are some important facts about the Indiana Dunes:

  • 3 million people visit the Dunes annually.
  • Its attendance is comparable to Yellowstone and Yosmite National Park.
  • There are 391 National Parks in the nation and we are ranked 25th in the number of visitors to our parks.
  • It is the number one attraction in the state of Indiana in attendance.
  • We are ranked 7th out of all the National Parks in plant diversity.
  • The Indiana Dunes are unique and you can’t copy or duplicate them.

Indiana Dunes puts us on the map and there is no other attraction or business that can replace the Dunes in terms of the number of visitors it brings to the area. In tourism terms, the Indiana Dunes is the Destination Driver.

Once the visitor gets here then our goal is to get them south of the Dunes to explore what our different communities have to offer in restaurants, shopping and other activities. These other amenities are considered diversionary activities. They are the activities you do after you visit the main attraction.

Do you participate in any regional efforts?

Indiana Dunes Tourism is a member of the 20-year-old regional partnership of Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission. This organization is comprised of seven Northern Indiana counties, which are: Porter, LaPorte, South Bend / Mishawaka, Elkhart, LaGrange, Marshall and Kosciusko Counties. Our motto is: “What can we do together that we can not do on our own.” This partnership allows us to work on large regional effort and still maintain our own individuality.

How Can I Learn More About Indiana Dunes Tourism?

Please visit us at Indiana Dunes Tourism.