Columbus Area Visitors Center holds annual meeting

2018 was a busy and productive year for the Columbus Area Visitors Center. That was the message during Wednesday’s annual meeting. Justin Booth, president of the visitors center board, says that 2.2 million people visit Bartholomew County each year, spending $283 million to local businesses and supporting 4,500 local jobs. He explains how the visitors center gets its data.

Booth says that good marketing is vital.

That marketing included a partnership between the visitors center and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development on a campaign that delivered 17 million impressions. This included online, television, radio and print.

Officials say 2018 was a strong year for the visitors center’s sports program. Sports tourism visitors spent $12.5 million at area businesses in 2018.

The area hosted its first regional pickleball tournament and won the bid to host the “Tough Mudder” obstacle course event for five years. This endurance competition is expected to draw 4,000 to 6,000 people each year.

Other 2018 highlights from the meeting included:

– The Visitors Center conducted 1,018 tours for 11,109 visitors.
– Columbus featured on the cover of the 2018 Indiana Travel Guide. A half-million copies were distributed.
– The installation of public art in the neighborhood of Interstate Exit 76 as part of the “Destination Neighborhoods” initiative.
– Sponsorship of the WTIU documentary “Clessie Cummins, Hoosier Inventor” and hosted a screening at YES Cinema.
– The Visitors Center helped direct $116,800 of innkeepers tax collected to local organizations.
– The Visitors Center cosigned approximately $16,000 worth of merchandise for local artists.
– Underwriting the publication of “Xenia Miller, Prairie Modernist.”
– Partnering with the Columbus Redevelopment Commission on a feasibility study for a downtown hotel and conference center.
– Annual revenue totaled $1,989,490. The Inkeeper’s Tax accounted for $1.35 million of that amount.
– Expenses were $1,884,252. Promotions and hosting accounted for approximately two-thirds of annual expenses.
– Two new shuttles were put into service for the tour program.
– Seven successful exhibits in Gallery 506.
– The Visitors Center provided $260,734 to more than 40 community partners.