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Tourism Director Aims To Improve State’s Data On Visitors

Mark Newman says the state's current information about tourists is mostly "anecdotal."

couple in brown county

Photo: Brown County State Park

A couple overlooks Brown County state park during its leaf color change, a major attraction for some visitors.

Indiana’s new tourism director says the state needs to produce better data on who exactly is visiting state tourist destinations and what that means for local economies.

Mark Newman, interim director of the Office of Tourism, says this is what he has been hearing from local officials as he visits them around the state. He describes the state’s current methods for learning about tourists as mostly “anecdotal.”

“What we need to do is develop a set of metrics that clearly illustrate that tourism is impacting our economy, and that it serves as a strong economic driver,” he says.

Brown County Chamber of Commerce board member Mary Beth Moore says the chamber gets some hard numbers on visitors from the restaurants that serve tourists as well as the state park inns, and hotels.

“It gives us a pretty good feeling,” she says. “It may not be 100 percent but maybe 65 percent, 80 percent. It gives us a clear idea of who’s coming. And what we don’t know is what they’re spending, but we know those that are staying, et cetera.”

Local merchants also give the chamber a “barometer reading” of how much visitors are spending, but not an exact amount. Moore says the Chamber has made various attempts to learn more about local tourists.

“We’ve tried people walking down the street and stopping and asking questions,” she says. “That seems to help some and validate what we’re getting through the inns or the restaura nts.”

She says local tourism officials have considered sending a census to visitors, but are not sure they would get enough responses for it to be meaningful.Newman, who will serve as interim director at least until the end of the Daniels Administration, suggests using social media and data from mobile devices to gather tourism information.

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