Bill Could Revamp Tourism Approach

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Michael Karickhoff is the author of the bill. Michael Karickhoff is the author of the bill.

A bill passed Tuesday by the Indiana House would change the way the state approaches tourism. House Bill 1115, authored by Representative Mike Karickhoff (R-Kokomo) would create the Indiana Destination Development Corp., a joint public-private agency to replace the existing Office of Tourism Development. The bill is the result of a study by the Indiana Tourism Task Force, which was established in 2017.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Karickhoff said the group was tasked with studying how the tourism industry can best impact and improve tourism throughout the state. The study included input from industry experts from hotels, restaurants, attractions and more that identified what the state is doing well, what it could do better, and what opportunities are in place to improve tourism statewide.

"Tourism is a big deal but across the board, nationally, we only get a very small slice of the tourism pie," said Karickhoff. "They came with the recommendation to change the Indiana Office of Tourism Development into a quasi public-private agency."

Indiana already has agencies that fall under that category, including the Indiana Economic Development Corp. and the Indiana Housing Authority. Karickhoff says, if approved, the Indiana Destination Development Corp. would assume all of the IOTD's responsibilities and be responsible for marketing and attracting more visitors to the state.

He says the corporation would align the state's dollars with private dollars, increasing collaboration and communication.

"Businesses and communities throughout Indiana are experiencing tremendous economic growth thanks to a boost in record tourism from both in-and out-of-state visitors," Karickhoff said. "To continue this momentum, input from businesses and tourism professionals would help Indiana provide the state’s tourism industry the support it needs and ensure resources are distributed appropriately."

The Indiana Destination Development Corp. would be led by a seven-member board of directors, which would include the governor or their designee, the president of the IEDC or their designee, and five members from the private sector tourism industry appointed by the governor. If the bill is signed into law, the transition to the new organization would not take place until July 2020.

The bill comes shortly after the IOTD released its annual report, which showed record tourism numbers for the state. The report said total visitor spending reached $12.7 billion, creating $9 billion in economic impact. Indiana saw 80 million visitors in 2017 and tourism generated $1.4 billion in state and local taxes.

House Bill 1115 passed the House by a unanimous vote. The bill now heads to the Indiana Senate for consideration and Karickhoff says he expects more bipartisan support.

You can view the full bill by clicking here.

Karickhoff said the group was tasked with studying how the tourism industry can best impact and improve tourism throughout the state.
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