Booming tourism in Jackson County
Tourism is important in Indiana because visitor spending brings money to communities, creates jobs, strengthens local economies, and improves residents’ quality of life.
According to Indiana Destination Development Corp., travel and tourism also build cultural awareness, help create a sense of community, and can provide shared experiences to connect friends and families across generations. A community can’t be a great place to visit if it isn’t first and foremost a great place to live.
Tourism is back in Jackson County like wildfire in 2022, everything is booming and it’s been a great year for tourism, said Arann Banks, executive director of the Jackson County Visitor Center.
“I think it was part of the perfect storm because the fair had great weather except for a few rainy days but they had a great turnout at the fair and sold a lot of tickets for the shows,” Banks said. “Oktoberfest and Fort Vallonia Days also had great weather, so I think we were really lucky.”
She said everyone was ready to date again, and it was a combination of people who are still a little bit temperamental and don’t feel as temperamental on the outside and people who aren’t temperamental anymore are great for go outside.
“I think for the first time since COVID, everyone was ready to go out and they did, so everything here got very crowded,” Banks said. “We had a much better year than I expected.”
She said the pandemic hasn’t hit here as hard, and overall restaurants, hotels and tourism partners say they’ve had a great year. There are a few that hit a plateau, and one restaurant owner said he was okay with that, and when you’re in this business, you get used to the ups and downs, so that didn’t bother him.
“I think a lot of people are back and running, but business travel is still a bit behind everything else, but it’s a nationwide thing,” Banks said. “They’ve learned to do business without traveling as much, and a lot of the catering can be missing, so the travel is intentional and it’s business rather than a recruitment trip or an entertainment trip. “
The banks won’t have the final figure for last year’s innkeeper tax until the end of the month, and she’s glad to see them. In 2020, Jackson County tourism was only down about 25% or 30%.
“Some counties were down substantially, and it was just devastating, but we were really not as low as others, and then last year our totals were really not bad,” he said. she stated. “We were back to 2017 numbers and then 2019 was our biggest year ever.”
She said the county hasn’t lost any hotels, although some have changed hands, and anyone who talks about event planning, such as festivals and fairs, is all reporting good years.
“The biggest festival/event draws in Jackson County are the Jackson County Fair, Oktoberfest, and Fort Vallonia Days,” Banks said. “These three are probably the biggest in terms of visits. Then other popular events are HOPE Medora Goes Pink, Medora Christmas Parade, Fruhlingsfest, KilnFest and Crothersville Red, White and Blue Festival.
The Jackson County Watermelon Festival in Brownstown is resurrected August 4-5, 2023, for the first time since 2015 after being canceled in 2016. Information about the festival will be released soon.
Banks said the Jackson County Fair is one of the few remaining free fairs in the state, and with that, it’s hard to gauge attendance. It’s the same with Oktoberfest.
“I was told there were around 100,000 people each, and that seems pretty close, and if you look at Oktoberfest, 30,000 a day, that’s probably about right,” Banks said. . “I’m working on being able to get a better number for that, but the things we can measure are baseball and softball tournaments, which are huge, taking place from April to October. Then, of course, the speedway ride (Brownstown) and a few of the others.
She said it was different from their festival numbers, but they get Brownstown Speedway numbers and all travel ball team numbers back.
“Nursing homes, funeral homes, and hospitals are also partners because people come from out of town for those reasons, but not a ton,” Banks said. “Healthy hospitals are an indicator of healthy tourism and vice versa.”
A good thing for tourism in Jackson County is to choose Airbnbs, Banks said.
“I know of three or four in downtown Seymour, and there will be two or three more downtown, not to mention other places in the county,” Banks said. “Our hotels are filling up fast and baseball and softball are only getting bigger. Everyone asks me if it’s just a flash in the pan, but it’s not at all.
She said there has been more than $7 million in economic impact this year alone for baseball and softball teams, which run from April through October.
“When I started here in 2015, those numbers were $3.15 million, and it just got bigger and bigger,” Banks said. “Tourism is good here, and we’re kind of a unicorn compared to most because we’re a patchwork county and a lot of the things we buy into here, they don’t necessarily buy into in other counties.”
She said whatever they get goes straight into the county, but take Columbus for example, her drop-in center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so it’s tied together very differently from the county of Jackson, so his money comes in a lot differently.
“We receive 5% of every dollar spent on rentals of 29 days or less at hotels, registered and licensed Airbnbs, Starve Hollow cabins (not campsites), Berry Branch Cottages and future cottages under construction at Chateau de Spades,” Banks said. “This innkeeper tax is 100% of my budget because I don’t get any money from the county, state, or federal government.”
For more information about the Jackson County Visitor Center and events happening in the county, visit jacksoncountyin.com.