An earlier version of this story referred incorrectly to an event attendee’s hometown. Sarah Ward represents Knightstown.
Instead of hoots and hollers and revving engines, a much smaller, local group of people came together for the state’s news conference to announce its new “IN Indiana” tourism marketing campaign at one of the state’s most popular tourism venues.
“This is an exciting time for the state of Indiana,” said Elaine Bedel, the Indiana Destination Development Corp. Secretary and CEO. “This is not a tagline. This is a very different kind of promotional campaign that we need everybody to be a part of.”
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The state applied for a federal grant in August and received approval in April for $5.5 million to help create the resources for the campaign. The Department of Commerce is issuing the grants to states to boost tourism following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The materials include the main identifier of the campaign — a graphic that reads, “IN Indiana” — along with various headlines to pair with the IN Indiana, some of which read: “Explore the State Parks” and “Life is Better.” Individuals can also create their own headlines.
Hoosiers must register with an email for access to the materials.
“Research has shown that people have no perception of Indiana,” said Amy Howell, the director of tourism, marketing and communications for the IDDC. To address this, Howell says the state’s strategy is two-fold: to increase Hoosier pride within the state and to raise perception of Indiana outside of the state.
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Prior to the pandemic, the tourism industry was a critical part of the state’s economy. In 2019, Indiana saw historically high levels of tourism, increasing for the ninth consecutive year. The number of visitors to the state increased by 2.1%, totaling 82.7 million trips, according to a study conducted by Rockport Analytics. Visitor spending in Indiana produced a $9.6 billion gross domestic product boost for the economy, a 3.5% increase from 2018.
In 2020, the pandemic ruined the upward trends in the state’s tourism industry. The number of visitors to the state decreased by 19%, with a total of 66.7 million person-trips, as reported by Rockport Analytics. Visitor spending declined by $3.5 billion, resulting in an addition of $6.9 billion to the state GDP, a 28% decrease from the prior year. Nationally, the US Department of Commerce reports that 56% of the decline in the country’s GDP in 2020 was due to reduced travel and tourism to and within the US.
Now, the goal is for tourism in the state to improve every year, with a focus on attracting people from border states, Howell said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch also spoke at the event. Doug Boles, the president of the Motor Speedway, introduced them. Indiana Fever President Allison Barber, Knightstown Town Council President Sarah Ward and Indiana State University President Deborah J. Curtis attended.
Holcomb spoke of numerous Indiana attractions — Indiana Dunes National Park, the Hoosier Gym in Knightstown, Notre Dame — that many out-of-towners do not realize are native to the state as a reason for why the new campaign is important.
“The thought that has gone into this,” Holcomb said, “has always been: How do we pull together one Indiana, harness that synergy, all of our individual stories that we share just naturally when we are with one another, (to) put that on a global stage?”
Contact IndyStar Pulliam Fellow Lizzie Kane at [email protected]