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Letter: Without visitors bureau, county at disadvantage

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Note: The statements, views, and opinions contained in this letter to the editor are those of the author and are not endorsed by, nor do they necessarily reflect, the opinions of Daily Journal.

Don Cummings,

co-founder of Journey Johnson County,


To the editor:

Are you a Johnson County business owner who wishes more people in Indianapolis would find out what you have to offer? Do you run an organization or manage a property that local residents don’t seem to know about? Do you wish you had a better way to get your message to those visiting Central Indiana?

These sorts of things are exactly what can result from our county implementing a 5 percent innkeeper’s tax. Indiana law provides that such locally adopted “hotel taxes” result in a convention and visitors bureau, which would promote what Johnson County has to offer — by way of publications, Web presence, local economy engagement and other publicity.

Further, evidence in our own state shows that convention and visitors bureaus “work” — returning multiplied money to the local economies and to local governments due to increased sales taxes.

But here’s the main message: Without a bureau we remain at a competitive disadvantage. We are the only county surrounding Indianapolis that does not market itself with a bureau because we do not have an innkeeper’s tax.

Leaders in nearby communities who do promote themselves have been quoted in their common desire to “keep Johnson County irrelevant.” Do you want them to succeed?

Detractors of this idea maintain that either we have nothing to promote or that “no one would vacation here.” They are wrong on the former and miss the point on the latter.

But to understand that, one must first understand the primary audiences of promotional efforts. The first audience is anyone who is planning to come to the Indianapolis area for unrelated reasons, such as for a conference or to visit relatives.

We’d like them to easily find out, for example, about the unique restaurant offerings in the county so they might come south out of Indy to see what we have. Or discover family-friendly fun places that might cause them to come back next time with their family. Or extend their stay an extra day to visit the craft breweries and wineries nearby.

The second audience is everyone in central Indiana who looks to those marketed counties for things to do on the weekend.

And finally, our own residents so they get out and experience what Johnson County has to offer and tell others about it.

If one still doubts that there is anything to promote in our county, here is a link to a recent magazine cover story on that very subject: www.indianacounties.org/egov/documents/1382972950_30003.pdf

We, the original nine volunteers of Journey Johnson County, hosted a tourism information forum at the Historic Artcraft Theatre nearly five years ago, an event for community leaders and interested citizens to expose them to the possibilities and to the successes of other nearby convention and visitors bureau professionals.

That was the same year that our county council failed to find the political will to pass the innkeeper’s tax, cutting us off from the promotional dollars that would have come from all the Super Bowl 2012 hotel stays.

Now it is 2014, and the vote comes up again Jan. 13.

I encourage all readers interested in Johnson County being able to compete economically to contact their county council members by phone or email and to show up at the January meeting to express their opinions.

And I ask those same council members to have the courage to pass a tax that our hotel visitors would pay — the very same sort of tax we all pay everywhere else we go and never question it.

Why would our community leaders want us to stay at a competitive disadvantage?

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