Capitalizing on tourism: Lawrence works to increase tourism, awareness of what city has to offer

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City of Lawrence Communications Manager Daniel Beyer said Hoosiers, and even many Lawrence residents, aren’t aware of all the city has to offer when it comes to tourism.

In July 2020, Beyer worked with other city staff members to create a tourism website for Lawrence called visitlawrenceindiana.com, and since then, the city has been working to inform residents and visitors about what there is to do in the city.

“I just know how great ( the opportunities are) Lawrence has to offer,” Beyer said. “I eat at these restaurants, I’m going to all these events, so it’s really about expanding upon what we already do in marketing the city with our social media and showing people Lawrence is a great place to be and live.

“We realized Lawrence didn’t have anything like a tourism website or organization like Visit Indy, which was our influence. So, we wanted to have a website to show people what Lawrence has to offer.”

The website lists local events and attractions such as Fort Harrison State Park, the Indianapolis Salt Cave and the Fort Ben Cultural Campus, among other destinations.

“I think people who have been to Fort Ben in Lawrence find it amazing, but a lot of people don’t know, especially people in Indianapolis, and there’s not a huge awareness of Lawrence,” Beyer said.

Lawrence purchased TV advertisements and billboards to showcase what the city has to offer. A recent development may be able to house those tourists that come to Lawrence. A 98-room Tru by Hilton hotel recently broke ground at 9135 Otis Ave. and is slated to open in spring 2022.

Fort Harrison Reuse Authority Executive Director Aletha Dunston said a market study several years ago was instrumental in drawing the hotel project.

“The overwhelming reason to attract a hotel was because of the tourism aspects of the state park, the Fort and the various soccer tournaments in the fields off of 56th Street,” she said. “I would like to think that’s one of the reasons why our hotel made it through the planning stages during the pandemic when several others didn’t.”

The hotel is the first new hotel in the Fort district, and Dunston said it will augment the Fort Harrison State Park Inn, which has 28 rooms.

“It will attract bigger and better events like weddings and conferences,” Dunston said of the Tru by Hilton hotel.

Currently, the Fort Harrison State Park Inn is the only place to stay near the Fort.

“We also are very excited it will help not only for conferences and corporate uses, but the location they chose on Otis Avenue we believe will help support locally owned businesses within walking distance to that area,” Dunston said.

“It’s all about promoting the city and helping it grow and attracting people to come visit,” Beyer said of the city’s tourism push.

In the near future, Beyer plans to design a handout showcasing all the restaurants within walking distance of the Tru by Hilton hotel and the Fort Harrison State Park Inn. He also wants to create an itinerary of what to do in a day while visiting Lawrence.

“(The itinerary would include) a list of restaurants and activities you can do on a day in the trip, like go to the state park, take a historic walk around the loop, eat at certain restaurants, go to the Theater at the Fort, go to the cultural campus, kind of a full day trip of possibilities and what to do,” Beyer said.

Website visitors 

When visitlawrenceindiana.com launched in July 2020, it had 342 unique visitors. In the months since, the figure has grown to as much as 5,745 per month.

The graph below shows the site’s metrics for unique visitors from July 2020 to March 2021:

  • July 2020: 342
  • August 2020: 1,117
  • September 2020: 637
  • October 2020: 5,745
  • November 2020: 2,559
  • December 2020: 4,982
  • January 2021: 1,388
  • February 2021: 621
  • March 2021 (as of March 22): 806

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