43,000. That’s an estimate of how many hospitality jobs are dependent on the travel and tourism sector in the South Shore. The jobs range from the owner of your favorite restaurant, the Superintendent of the Parks Department, the managers and housekeepers at a hotel, dealers at the casino to the lifeguards at the waterpark.

Travel is a top-5 employer in the Region and spending by visitors totals more than $793 million in Lake County alone. Travel has a huge impact on the economy and it deserves more attention. This week, the South Shore CVA and other tourism marketing organizations across the country are celebrating the 34th annual National Travel and Tourism Week. This year’s theme, “Faces of Travel,” highlights the owners, managers, front-desk employees and everyone in between, behind the travel industry.

Travel sustained the Region’s economy during the recession, as hundreds of thousands of visitors descended on the South Shore to take part in a number of sporting events and conferences. Each overnight visitor spends an average of $250 a day during their stay, which accounts for millions of dollars pumped into our hotels, restaurants, attractions, shopping centers as well as gas stations and grocery stores.

It’s no secret that the South Shore needs to diversify the marketplace to retain jobs as well as people in our communities. Available jobs equal a healthy economy. A visitor will spend money in the Region, stimulate the economy and create the need for additional jobs.

You may be asking, “How do we attract more visitors to the South Shore to stimulate the economy?” We need to give visitors a reason to travel here. The Indiana Dunes, Albanese Confectionery, The Shrine of Christ’s Passion, Deep River Waterpark and countless other attractions draw visitors to the Region already. A facility that could host tradeshows, state conferences, gate-shows and other special events has the potential to bring thousands of additional visitors (and their wallets) to the South Shore.

Building a multi-use facility will diversify the economy, bring people to the South Shore, create jobs and stimulate additional growth. Attractions like Edge Adventure Parks at Deep River, The Mascot Hall of Fame and the recently announced floating waterpark in Whiting are the South Shore’s newest “demand generators,” giving people a reason to visit the South Shore. An increase in visitors, through demand generators, can attract new businesses and attractions solidifying the South Shore’s image of an affordable, family-friendly destination.

I ask you to support a demand generator to increase visitation in Northwest Indiana. The proposed multi-use facility would host a number of events and conventions year round. You can learn more by contacting me at 219-989-7770 or visiting southshoreconventioncenter.com.