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History of Indiana Dunes Tourism
The doors to Indiana Dunes Tourism opened on January 2, 1986.
The first Indiana Dunes Tourism office/Indiana Dunes Visitor Center was located in Chesterton on the southeast side of Indian Oak Mall. To date, Indiana Dunes Tourism has had six executive directors and has grown to a staff of five full-time employees, one part-time employee, four destination concierges for the Visitor Center and two volunteers.
The Indiana Dunes Tourism offices and Visitor Center have been housed in five different locations over the years, including the current location. The Visitor Center is an important marketing tool because it allows Indiana Dunes Tourism to interact directly with a large number of visitors who have chosen our destination and tell them the story of the Indiana Dunes and Indiana Dunes Country.
The organization is funded through the innkeepers tax. The original amount collected was three percent of the cost of lodging, but it increased to five percent with the innkeepers’ support as long as the funding was spent on marketing to increase visitation to Porter County’s hotels, restaurants, attractions and other tourism businesses.
Indiana Dunes Tourism’s mission from the very beginning was to bring visitors to Indiana Dunes Country and extend their stay through effective marketing programs. As tourism grew over the years, Indiana Dunes Tourism expanded its marketing efforts by creating a comprehensive Activities Guide and multiple niche publications, like a Birding Guide and a Fishing Guide, and by conducting key research to determine its customers.
The organization received accreditation through Destination Marketing Association International’s accreditation program in 2009 and earned reaccreditation in 2013, strengthening its status as an elite destination marketing organization. The organization changed its “doing business as” name to Indiana Dunes Tourism in 2010 to reflect the primary reason visitors come to Porter County, which is to visit the Indiana Dunes. The new name allows the organization to be more effective in marketing Porter County’s main assets.
Indiana Dunes Tourism continues to increase its marketing efforts and its promotion of the new brand – The Indiana Dunes, Nature’s Masterpiece. The organization has also increased its emphasis on strong online marketing and creating effective public relations and group/niche market programs.
Indiana Dunes Tourism has evolved into a visionary organization proactively involved in destination development planning, including the creation of a strategic plan for new and enhanced product development within Indiana Dunes Country. Indiana Dunes Tourism also has a staff of professionals who make the vision a reality. They have been successful, in part, due to the quality and quantity of the partnerships they have formed. One of the strongest partnerships is with the Northern Indiana Tourism Development Commission, which allows Indiana Dunes Tourism to leverage marketing dollars with six other Northern Indiana destination marketing organizations. This allows Indiana Dunes Tourism to have a strong presence in key feeder markets.
Form of Ownership
Indiana Dunes Tourism is a department of county government, but is structured differently than other departments. On May 21,1984, the Porter County Board of Commissioners – Michael Aylesworth, William Carmichael and Larry Sheets – created the organization. The commissioners wanted to diversify the local economy by creating other industries, such as tourism, due to the decline of the steel industry.
The Porter County Board of Commissioners created the Porter County Convention, Recreation & Visitor Commission (now doing business as Indiana Dunes Tourism) pursuant to I.C. 6-9-19-1 (Indiana Uniform Innkeeper’s Tax Law) and County Commissioner Resolution 84-4. It was amended on November 21, 1994 with Resolution 94-13 and was amended again on January 1, 1998 with Resolution 97-22. In 1985, the Porter County Council adopted the Uniform County Innkeepers Tax as the sole funding mechanism for Indiana Dunes Tourism.