Porter County tourism continues to grow
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent January 8, 2013 5:12PM
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:56PM
CHESTERTON — Porter County tourism is on the rise, rebounding from the economic crisis and decline that hit about 2008 and bringing in about $244.3 million directly into the local economy in 2011.
Most of the tourists came from Illinois and Indiana, but those surveyed by consultants Certec Inc. of Kentucky came from 30 states and six foreign countries.
The total economic impact to Porter County was $348.3 million, when adjusted for wages paid to those working in affected industries and supplies spent locally.
The Indiana Dunes Tourism Board of Directors heard this news Tuesday in a report from Certec and was told by Certec President Jim Carr that Porter County should continue to market the area and “grow” attractions.
“You’re already doing a great deal of what you need to do,” Carr said.
He said that Porter County’s tourism grew above the regional average, comparably to Elkhart and faster than LaGrange and St. Joseph counties.
If there’s no national economic downturn, it should continue.
According to the report, from 2007 to 2009, economic impact only increased 0.8 percent, which adjusted for inflation was a decrease of 0.9 percent. In 2011, the impact increased by 5.9 percent, adjusted for inflation.
Those who stayed overnight in the area spent the most money, an average of $100 a day, compared to $56 a day by those visiting friends or family.
Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said that if Porter County can get visitors to stay two nights, the economy would gain $20 million a year.
The typical visitor was college-educated and in a professional occupation, and about two-thirds of visitors were from a household of more than $76,000 in income, Carr said. That’s above the United States median.
Most visitors were here for leisure, such as the Indiana Dunes State Park and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and reached 79 percent, as compared to 17 percent here for conventions and business and 4 percent for sporting events.
Tourism brought in $82 million in tax revenues total, of that $30 million going to the state and $16 million going to the county.
And the industry created more than 4,700 jobs and $83 million in wages.
“Tourism really is big business in Porter County,” Carr said.