Although the state’s tourism industry has taken a hit during the pandemic, experts found that many Hoosiers are exploring their home state and getting outdoors.

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — Throughout the pandemic, tourism has been hit especially hard.
A policy brief from the United Nations this summer, estimated a trillion dollars in losses for the tourism industry, and more than 100 million jobs at risk.

Ahead of National Indiana Day, two Hoosier State tourism experts gave their analysis on what has happened and what’s to come. 

Indiana, like many others states, has been hit hard by the effects of COVID-19. However, they are hopeful, and have noticed a few silver linings.

“COVID-19 definitely hit Indiana tourism assets pretty hard, just like it did across the nation,” Indiana Destination Development Corp. director, Misty Weisensteiner said.

Weisensteiner says that Indiana businesses have been hit by the pandemic slump, but her group has been so appreciative at the number of businesses and customers that have adapted to our new normal. 

Although, the state’s tourism has declined, she explained that Hoosiers are starting to explore their home state more. 

“A lot of people weren’t comfortable taking those long extended vacations, and they were looking at staying closer to home,” said Weisensteiner. “Maybe an overnight, maybe just day trips, so we created an Indiana Roadtrips website where people could take a quiz and figure out based on what they were interested in what the best roadtrip for them would be. So it was really getting them to travel across the state and experience things that they didn’t even know were in their own backyard.”

A major force in the Hoosier-driven tourism is the state’s State Park system. The parks offer a safer way for people to travel and be outdoors.

“Our state parks were extremely busy this year,” said Weisensteiner. “More so than they’ve ever been. I think in the history of their existence probably. Because people were enjoying the outdoors. They were enjoying our state parks.”

Locally, southern Indiana fared better than expected according to SoIn tourism executive director, Jim Epperson. He noted that the need for Hoosiers to be outdoors during the pandemic had an impact. 

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“We saw especially during the summer was people were dying to get out and do something so we saw a lot of use of outdoor recreation,” said Epperson. “People are wanting to get out and do something so having Charlestown State Park, The Falls of the Ohio State Park, the Ohio river greenway, those are all big draws to bring people in to get outside. And it’s something you can do and feel safe doing it.”

Although offering outdoor seating for businesses and restaurants has patrons coming in the doors, both Epperson and Weisensteiner reminded us to band together in the upcoming winter months.

Don’t forget that those businesses are still there, they still need support,” said Epperson. “That is wealth that stays in our community.”

“Buy gift certificates,” said Weisensteiner. “Still do the carry out. Just make a conscious effort to really support these local businesses because they are the fabric of our communities and without them you lose that character of what we have.”

Towards the beginning of the pandemic, the SoIn tourism group created an online pledge for businesses to take, saying they would adhere to top cleanliness and safety standards.

So if you’re looking for healthy and safe local options as you eat and shop during the holidays, you can check out their list at their website.

Contact reporter Rob Harris at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter (@robharristv) and Facebook.  

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