Tourism is becoming big business and Noblesville is creating new opportunities to capitalize on it
If you are attending local attractions or special events, you may have noticed a lot of unfamiliar faces. Part of that is contributed to the city’s population growth; the other part is due to the county’s popularity and enhanced perception as a place to visit.
Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Brenda Myers said tourism is the third largest industry in Hamilton County with 11.4 percent of employment. It falls behind healthcare (15.4 percent) and retail/trade (11.8 percent). Finance and insurance was a close fourth with 11 percent.
“It also has the second fastest growing rate of tourism spending among Indiana counties with the highest tourism spending,” Myers said. “In 2013, hospitals dropped 7.2 percent, retail continues to grow at a 1.2 percent increase and tourism had a 7.1 percent increase. The three are so close, they could all change places.”
The numbers come from a recent economic impact study that provides the HCCVB a benchmark before the opening of Grand Park, a 360-acre sports campus in Westfield that will feature a full range of championship-level outdoor facilities for baseball, softball and field sports including soccer, football, rugby, field hockey and lacrosse.
“We’re already seeing full weekends on the calendar and navigating that is exciting,” Myers said. “We have weeks in 2014 where every hotel (in Hamilton County) is booked. We’re suggesting people look into Kokomo, Lafayette and Indianapolis.”
Myers credits a portion of that to Grand Park’s scheduled events, which are set to begin in March.
“The tournaments are so large with 40 to 80 teams – it’s just huge,” she said, adding Hamilton County has more than 3,000 hotel rooms with 65 percent occupancy already for 2014.
Myers said Hamilton County has a unique touring product with “wonderful downtowns in Noblesville and the Arts & Design District in Carmel, the Nickel Plate district in Fishers and Grand Junction in Westfield.”
“One community has four cultural districts. All four are beautiful and unique and offer something different,” she said. “There also are anchor alternatives like the Indiana Transportation Museum, Klipsch Music Center, the Palladium and sports not just at the Grand Park Sports Complex.”
Each also offers different experiences at different times of the year.
“There are so many assets. They keep coming back because there is something to do,” Myers said, adding that communities are being proactive about tourism. “They are looking for opportunities and ways to make it better.”
Why is tourism such a lucrative business? Hamilton County is ranked in third for the largest tourism in the state and is ranked second for expected growth. Myers said for every travel dollar spent, 92 cents stays in the county.
“Day and overnight visitors spend $375 million resulting in a total economic impact of $611 million and an overall savings of $888 in taxes annually for every Hamilton County household,” she said, adding a total of $159.6 million in taxes were generated by the county’s tourism industry in 2012.
Noblesville Economic Director Judi Johnson said the city is economically impacted by tourism in many ways.
“Wealth is dispersed locally due to the vast availability of food and beverage establishments which consistently continue to appear throughout the Noblesville landscape, and through varied shopping choices. Noblesville offers three large retail nodes – Hamilton Town Center, the Ind. 37 corridor and the downtown locally owned and operated establishments,” she said.
A place to stay
Noblesville has 313 rooms available at its four hotels: Cambria Suites, 13500 Tegler Dr. (132 rooms); Fairfield Inn & Suites, 17960 Foundation Dr. (59 rooms); Quality Inn and Suites, 16025 Prosperity Dr. (64 rooms); and Super 8, 17070 Dragonfly Lane 58 rooms). All are located off Ind. 37 with the exception of Cambria Suites, which is across from Hamilton Towne Center and I-69.
Currently under construction is a Courtyard Marriott at 17863 Foundation Dr. The 92-room hotel will feature deluxe guestrooms, underground parking, a bistro and much more. Courtyard also has the first meeting and banquet space on Ind. 37 in Noblesville.
“The impact of wedding ceremony and reception tourism is abundant in Noblesville due to our unique and expressive venue choice,” Johnson said. “Couples choose Noblesville due to its true historic and cultural vibe.”
With the increase in tourism opportunities, the HCCVB is talking with Ivy Tech about offering hospitality and art classes at the upcoming Noblesville campus, which opens in August.
“There’s a lot that hotel services and culinary arts do for us in the county,” Myers said.
Upcoming events and initiatives include a countywide gardens promotion in June, doing a better job of packaging outdoor recreational opportunities and tying music packages together. 2014 also is the “Year of Arts” at Conner Prairie.
“We’re reshaping how we do tourism,” Myers said.
Johnson said the city works in partnership with many cultural organizations and hopes to increase its ability to attract even more tourists through future cultural emergence initiatives.
“Let’s not forget that tourism and quality of life draw the type of workforce talent every community wants to attract and sustain,” Johnson said. “Young talent lifestyle choice is dependent upon cultural amenities and their desired location to live is based on ‘Live first, Work second.’ Economic development sustainability within any community is dependent on where talent lives and the choice they make ultimately drives the location of business.”