According to the economic impact study conducted by Certec, Inc., Lake County's tourism and travel industry made a total contribution of $1.62 billion to the Lake County economy in 2010; this is compared to a $1.34 billion impact in 2001. This figure represents an annual increase in spending of 2.2 percent.
In 2010, a total of 13,908 jobs (in FTEs [full time equivalents]) in Lake County were due to the expenditures made in the tourism and travel industry. These represent 7 percent of all jobs in the county in 2010.
The South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority released the economic impact of the millions of visitors that descend on Lake County each year, filling hotel rooms throughout Merrillville, Hammond and beyond, visiting attractions, dining in restaurants and purchasing merchandise. The typical purchases of these visitors include goods and services such as lodging, food and beverages, gasoline, souvenirs, admission fees, entertainment and other retail goods, all of these expenditures create a $1.62 billion dollar impact on the local economy.
This impact is often hard to track as many times a visitor will go unnoticed in the South Shore. Though often unnoticed, these visitors lead the tourism industry to generate nearly $651.3 million dollars in tax revenues ($324.4 million to the state, $148.7 million locally, and $178.2 to the federal government).
The popularity of the four casinos made an important contribution to the overall level of tourism spending in the county, generating $936.9 million in expenditures in the county in 2010. Attractions, which include entertainment, account for more than 57 percent of the $1.37 billion in direct expenditures. Other key findings were food and beverage spending generating 15 percent of all travel expenditures, 14 percent of the total was spent on shopping; while transportation, lodging, and souvenirs combined totaled 14 percent.
"A growing and vibrant tourism industry means additional business for industries throughout the South Shore," said Spero Batistatos, President and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.
While the 2010 findings were great, the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority's team is continually working to bring more visitors to the South Shore - hosting thousands of visitors for meetings and conventions, including the 19th Annual Indiana Challenge (1,000 participants and 500 room nights), the Lutheran Basketball Association of America National Championships (864 participants - 2,500 room nights) , the Salvation Army Annual Conference (3,000 participants, 1,300 room nights), and the National Softball Association Girls Fast Pitch ‘B' World Series (3,750 participants - 4,000 room nights).
The ongoing investment by the private and public sectors can change the image and landscape of an area, "take a look at Indianapolis, think back to the 1970's and now because of investments into tourism, Indy is hosting the Super Bowl," said Batistatos.
"Tourism is what can change the face and image of any city," Batistatos added.
Where does this money go once it is in the Lake County economy? In Lake County, the tourism dollars have an indirect benefit as well. "The economic benefits to Lake County are widespread. It helps support dozens of local businesses such as banking, insurance and real estate; transportation and public utilities; construction; agriculture; and manufacturing," said Mark Maassel, President and CEO of the Northwest Indiana Forum.