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July 11, 2013

THEIR VIEW: Indiana needs to restart its tourism engines

Petoskey, Mich., never looked better than on the billboards motorists see on Main Street in South Bend and driving north of the city on Indiana 933.

The giant picture postcards are part of the Pure Michigan campaign you’re bound to have noticed in print, on local radio and television stations, as well.

Tim Allen, in soothing voice-overs of stunning photography tells us, “The state of Michigan is a state blessed with the riches of unspoiled nature: the world’s longest freshwater coastline, lakes that feel like oceans, shimmering beaches, miles and miles of cherry orchards, glorious sunrises and sunsets, daytime skies of the deepest blue, nighttime skies scattered with stars.”

Michigan has a lot to sell and last year 104 million tourists bought in, spending $18.1 billion in the state.

Only a fraction of visitors may have been lured by Pure Michigan, but the state’s travel director, George Zimmermann, says a study of last spring and summer’s efforts found that Michigan generated nearly $6 for the state coffers, mostly from increased sales tax, for every $1 it spent on promotions. During that period, $79 million triggered specifically by the Pure Michigan campaign flowed into the state’s budget.

That success, perhaps, is why Illinois’ latest Enjoy Illinois commercial blitz looks and sounds like Pure Michigan wannabe.

So, what’s going on in Indiana? Surely, keeping up with the neighbors is important to Hoosiers’ economic advantage.

Mark Newman, executive director of Indiana Office of Tourism Development, says last year the state attracted about 63 million visitors. He adds, state tourism is currently going through a rebranding that will launch in the next fiscal year.

The now eight-year-old Indy-centric Restart Your Engines campaign for sure needs a jump. If you don’t believe it, just check out the website http://www.in.gov/visitindiana/. “Restart your old time engine” with a trip to Columbus’ 1900 soda fountain, it suggests. Old timey is right.

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