Tribune-Star Editorial graphic

Solid financial numbers show great year for local visitors

Terre Haute's geographic placement in the state of Indiana doesn't link it solidly to any metropolitan area, nor does it contain any specific drawing card that can always be relied upon to bring visitors to the community.

While that may not sound like a recipe for success in the realm of tourism, those perceived deficiencies haven't mattered much. Terre Haute and Vigo County have, through vision, initiative and positive energy, managed to forge their own identity as a tourist destination.

With more than six weeks remaining in 2019, tourism and hospitality officials are beaming with optimism that this year will be one of the county's best. Figures compiled at the end of October show innkeeper tax collections had surpassed the $2 million mark for only the second time in history. With major events remaining on the calendar this month and next, the tax numbers are sure to swell to even greater numbers.

The innkeeper tax paid by hotels in Vigo County is a key way officials can measure tourist activity. Hotels can give a strong indication of visitor levels. If people are staying in hotels, then they are also eating in restaurants, buying gasoline for their vehicles and making purchases at the variety of retail outlets available here.

This weekend and next, the county will be host to major national cross country activities. The Nike cross country event is this weekend, and the NCAA Division I national championship is next weekend. Both are at the spectacular LaVern Gibson Championship Course in eastern Vigo County.

Sporting events have driven much of the tourism growth. But officials also emphasized that strong collaboration from local colleges and the Vigo County School Corp. has also played an important role. Those institutions should be commended for their willingness to participate and be a part of local planning to accommodate visitors and special events that draw thousands of people to the community.

The community has now made a commitment to do even more to enhance its tourism economy. A downtown convention center will soon take shape and serve as a new and exciting facility for hosting larger gatherings or conferences than the community can now hold. Again, it came about through collaboration from both public and private sectors. Local government units — aka the taxpayers — have provided a significant infusions of funds.

The voters of Vigo County also opened the door further to the possibility of a casino. The very nature of a casino is to lure visitors to its home community. Tourism folks are salivating at the potential of a local casino to fuel the economy.

Because of solid and consistent tourism activity in recent years, it makes sense for Terre Haute and Vigo County to venture farther down that path. The investment in local tourism growth makes sense and we're confident it will ultimately pay off.

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