FAQs on Indiana Dunes Tourism

Why do you have two names?

The number one reason visitors come to Porter County is for the Indiana Dunes, and they know the Indiana Dunes name much more than they know Porter County or the term “convention, recreation and visitor commission. That is why we here at the Porter County Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission do business as Indiana Dunes Tourism. Visitors come for the Indiana Dunes, and we work to get them to extend their stay and spend money in the communities throughout Porter County.

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. Many business owners tell us it’s the visitor spending that ensures their success.

How do you define a visitor?

Any person who travels from outside of Northwest Indiana (Lake, Porter and LaPorte Counties).

What is the economic impact of visitors to our destination?

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

  • Visitors contribute more than $350 million to Porter County’s economy each year
  • Spending increased by more than $100 million since 2000.
  • About 4,750 jobs exist in Porter County because of tourism.
  • Tourism is one of the few industries that grows each year, and it even grew during the last recession.
  • Visitors paid $82 million in taxes, saving the average household $1,335 in 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 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 learn about bison, they don’t want to do it through a movie and a museum. They want to go to a bison farm and talk to the owners and get up close to real bison. 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, and not by property tax or income tax. Hotels collect the tax and then submit 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, filling the hotel rooms and encouraging spending in our communities.

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 1984 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. Our board is appointed by a variety of elected officials. Here are the appointing authorities:

  • Porter County Commissioners – 5 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:

We achieve our mission and goals through the marketing of and product development in Porter County. Our job is to tell the story of our destination.

Visitors need information to make a decision on which destination they will visit and what to do in that destination. We provide the information through a variety of different tools, including:

Printed guides: We produce and distribute more than 200,000 printed guides annually, including our Activities Guide, which is a comprehensive guide to the entire destination. We also produce the Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail Guide, which is a comprehensive guide to all of our nature-based and historical assets. We have also developed guides to address specific interests, like fishing, birding, biking, events and food.

Website: Visitors are always researching their trip ahead of time and want instant information. Unique visits to our website grow each year.
Videos: We produce videos about our destination and the individual attractions and businesses located within it. Video consumption has grown tremendously due to its power to tell a destination’s stories.

Other means: Among the other means of communication are electronic newsletters, free media coverage, paid advertising and social media.

What is 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 are just a few of our projects:

The Beyond the Beach Discovery Trail: This is a project that links 60 natural, cultural and historical sites together in a 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 joins all of our communities together and allows us to work in partnership with many of our community leaders.

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 like Chicago, Indianapolis and Fort Wayne to our destination. 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.
  • Dunes attendance is comparable to Yellowstone and Yosemite National Park.
  • There are about 400 national parks in the nation and we are consistently ranked near the top 10 percent in the number of visitors to our park.
  • The number one attraction in the state of Indiana in attendance is the dunes.
  • The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is ranked seventh out of all the national parks in plant diversity.

The 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. 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 (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 longstanding regional partnership called the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission. This organization consists of seven Northern Indiana counties, which are: Porter, LaPorte, Saint Joseph (South Bend/Mishawaka, Elkhart), LaGrange, Marshall and Kosciusko counties. Our motto is: “What can we do together that we can’t 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 explore our website.