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Editorial: Tax would support bureau for tourism

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During the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis, it was likely many out-of-town visitors looking for things to do outside the Super Bowl Village downtown turned to the Internet.

But if they searched for Johnson County attractions, they often had to know what they were looking for before they searched. They would have had to search for wineries to find Mallow Run or shopping malls to find Greenwood Park Mall or Edinburgh Premium Outlets.

There was no easy-to-find online clearinghouse for travel information about Johnson County. There are websites for the Franklin and Greater Greenwood chambers of commerce and journeyjohnsoncounty.org, but more could be done with online marketing.

Late last month, Indy was named one of the finalists for the 2018 Super Bowl. While there’s no guarantee the city will again win the bid, it would be a shame to again host the event and not be able to supply visitors with information about Johnson County.

A convention and visitors bureau would remedy that situation and, more importantly, provide information throughout the year to local and regional people as well as out-of-state visitors and marketing advice to local businesses and attractions.

The funding for a bureau would come from an innkeeper’s tax, which would be levied on hotel, motel and bed-and-breakfast stays in the county. A 5 percent tax would raise an estimated $650,000 each year to be spent on a new tourism commission, which would market the county to visitors.

Sixty percent of the commission’s budget would be spent on marketing, including promoting county events, businesses and attractions through brochures and a tourism website. The rest would pay employee salaries, operating costs and grants programs.

The Johnson County Council this month will consider adopting an innkeeper’s tax.

Opponents say that adding to visitors’ lodging bills would discourage them from staying in the county. Still others oppose levying any new taxes at all.

The council has considered the tax twice but has not approved it. The council decided to put off the vote on the tax until this month so new council members, who were not on the council when the issue last was discussed in 2009, would have a chance to hear opinions from residents, ask questions and learn about the tax.

But the fact is we are not marketing ourselves effectively because there is no central office handling it. With a tourism bureau, Johnson County businesses would be able to promote themselves together. A centralized site could have links to the websites of the respective businesses and attractions.

Johnson County would benefit from a tourism bureau, and the county council needs to pass the innkeeper’s tax to fund it.

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