County tourism dollars continue to climb

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

Visitor spending in Dubois County grew for the fifth year in a row in 2016.

Radius Indiana, an economic development firm that targets Dubois, Crawford, Daviess, Green, Lawrence, Martin, Orange and Washington counties, commissioned a study of the economic impact of tourism in the counties it covers, dubbed the Radius Region. The study looked at 2016 spending and at growth from 2015 to 2016, the most recent period for which data is available, and found that tourism spending in the region increased 4 percent.

Visitors to Dubois County spent roughly $89 million — the second highest in the Radius Region — which was an increase of 8.8 percent from 2015. Orange County took the top spot for spending with roughly $91 million in visitor spending, but only 1.7 percent growth. The Indiana Office of Tourism Development reported 5.7 percent growth in statewide tourism spending.

“I think we’re doing outstanding,” said Kevin Manley, executive director of the Dubois County Visitors Center and Tourism Commission.

Manley has seen visitor spending in Dubois County grow from $65 million in 2011 to $89 million in 2016. Now, Dubois County ranks 14th out of Indiana’s 92 counties for tourism spending per capita.

Sports tournaments, particularly baseball and softball, generate a lot of Dubois County’s tourism, Manley said. The county’s proximity to Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari and major festivals like Jasper’s Strassenfest and Ferdinand’s Christkindlmarkt also draw visitors.

Bus tours are also becoming more popular, Manley said, and often include stops at the Dubois County Museum, Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand and League Stadium in Huntingburg. Golf is another draw. The visitors center has been working with local hotels and golf courses to put together packages to attract golfers to the area.

“Golf has really been growing in the last few years,” Manley said.

Tourism is key to the local economy. According to the Radius Indiana study, roughly 73 cents for every $1 visitors spend in the region is fed back into local economies through the everyday operations of businesses that serve visitors.

In Dubois County, the study found, most of the tourism money filters through the retail industry, but visitors also frequent businesses in the lodging and food and beverage industries. For tourism research, tourism is defined as an overnight stay or trip greater than 50 miles each way that is not part of a person’s regular routine.

The study also found that tourism also lightens the tax burden carried by locals. Visitors pay taxes on the goods and services they consume while in the area, and the dollars they spend in the local economy feed into the system and contribute to other taxes as well, most notably federal and local income and property taxes. According to the study, he tourism industry initiated $60 million in tax revenue for the region in 2016. Without the tourism industry, the study said, each household in the Radius Region would have to pay an additional $375 in taxes each year to maintain current levels.

“That’s beneficial to our county’s businesses, and really to all of its people,” Manley said, “when you think of that $375 you don’t have to pay because it’s being taken care of by visitors.”




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