SOUTHERN INDIANA — Tourism in Southern Indiana is returning to pre-pandemic levels through new businesses, returning events and more, a SoIN Tourism report finds.
To celebrate, SoIN Tourism is hosting a celebration next week to go over the “2022 Tourism Community Report.” The event will be Feb. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at the Prosser Career Education Center at 4202 Charlestown Road, New Albany. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/soin-tourism-community-celebration-tickets-513295138577 and will cost $20.
The report has found that tourists have spent $340 million in Southern Indiana and that traveler spending has supported 4,751 jobs in the area.
“Retail and restaurants are the number one and number two categories for visitor spending,” said Jim Epperson, SoIN executive director. “All of those people from out of town, even if they are not staying the night are spending money in restaurants and retail.”
During the pandemic, residents had to do what they could to help keep local restaurants and stores from closing. Now that COVID has slowed down, tourists are coming back and are helping to keep local shops open.
Tourism is important to the Southern Indiana community because it is part of keeping the local economy going. Many jobs are supported by visitor spending, which ultimately is funding local governments.
“The economic benefits for everybody in Jeffersonville are going to be enormous from this and the same is true for Clarksville,” said Mayor Mike Moore of Jeffersonville. “So many restaurants have opened up in our city and we’ve got some great entertainment venues downtown.”
To return to pre-pandemic levels of tourism, SoIN increased its marketing to reach farther out to Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Concerts coming back to Southern Indiana has helped with the effort. Jeffersonville and New Albany have free concerts every Friday night in the summer months and encourage visitors to go to the restaurants and food trucks in the area.
“The bigger the concert, the further people come,” Moore said. “A perfect example is Abbey Road; the world’s largest Beatles Festival is in Jeffersonville.”
When the Kentucky Derby happens, it brings people from all over the country to Southern Indiana as well. The Big Four Walking Bridge is also a main attraction to bring people in to visit.
Business travel also helped get tourists back to the area even though it is hard to advertise.
“A marketable part of business travel is the meetings, conference and convention business,” Epperson said. “We’re not overly active in that because we don’t have a convention center here, but Louisville does.”
Since Southern Indiana is close to Louisville, SoIN was able to get people to stay in the area for business meetings to help bring more tourism.
“The one thing I want people to take from this is COVID is behind us,” Moore said. “When you see our tourism board jumping back in and saying ‘it’s time,’ I hope everybody recognizes that it’s a great confidence-booster that everything is going to come back. We’re getting back to normal.”
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