The travel and tourism industry contributed nearly $401.6 million to Elkhart County’s economy in 2011 compared to $367.6 million in 2009 according to a recent study by Certec, Inc. Direct expenditures by visitors accounted for $273.1 million of this total, up from $250 million in spending in 2009.
“This growth in visitor spending is significant when you consider Elkhart County was in a deep economic recession in 2009,” said Diana Lawson, the executive director for the Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “These tourism dollars help support dozens of local businesses and impact banking, insurance, real estate, public utilities, construction, manufacturing and agriculture.”
The study pointed out the importance of Interstate 80/90 and local attractions to tourism spending in Elkhart County. The pass-through highway travelers in tandem with the destination travelers to Elkhart County have helped create the extensive network of attractions, lodging properties, restaurants, and specialty shopping that exists in the county. This mix of visitors has provided a balance to the local tourism industry. As a result it is not overly dependent on a single tourism sector – a goal most communities strive for but few achieve.
“Our destination’s events and festivals are also important contributors to Elkhart County’s tourism industry,” said Lawson. She went on to add that both the Quilt Gardens along the Heritage Trail and Amish Acres Arts & Crafts Festival were recently designated Top 100 Events in North America for 2013 by the American Bus Association (ABA). Selecting two events from one county is unique. It’s even more so when those same events have received the Top 100 honor five times each — something only six other events in the three contiguous states of Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan have achieved.
“It makes a positive statement about the quality of our destination’s tourism product when Elkhart County’s events are continually recognized for their excellent entertainment value and potential to generate tourism dollars.”