On Wednesday afternoon, the South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority invited local businesses, restaurants, and community leaders to the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond to celebrate and raise awareness for the importance of tourism in a beautiful and thriving community like Northwest Indiana.
The annual Tourism Luncheon, which is held during National Travel and Tourism Week, welcomed almost 200 people from all around the region to raise awareness of tourism and travel and how it affects the region’s economy.
“This luncheon is a perfect way to celebrate the 35th annual National Travel and Tourism Week,” said Erika Dahl, Director of Communications for the South Shore CVA. “It raises awareness for the importance of travel and the economy. It is our time as a CVA to champion tourism to our local community.”
The South Shore Convention & Visitors Authority emphasizes the unique and beautiful things the South Shore has to offer, like family owned restaurants, antiques, historic towns, and plenty of outdoor attractions that is fun for all ages. By focusing on what Northwest Indiana has to offer to visiting families, local businesses and the community benefit from the attention and the economic boom.
“Tourism is a huge economic driver, but sadly it doesn’t get as much attention as it should as an economic engine in a community,” Dahl said. “Visitors come here and they put so much money into the community. The average traveler will spend around $250 a day, and that’s everything from gas, to food, souvenirs, attractions, and so much more. They’re spending in our community which is so important.”
The luncheon hosted people from all over the community, including a number of local restaurants to provide a delicious lunch for guests. Businesses like Fair Oaks Farm, Doc’s Smokehouse of Dyer, and Chicagoland Popcorn of Merrillville were just a few of the local businesses adding their own signature flavor to the luncheon and showing everyone just what the “Taste of the South Shore” had to offer.
“Tourism exposes us to a much larger audience,” said Brent Brashier, owner of Doc’s Smokehouse. “The overall mission of the CVA to draw tourists from all over the country to this corner of Northwest Indiana is extremely important. In our industry, tourism generates so many jobs. It’s good for everybody.”
Mogda Walker, owner of Chicagoland Popcorn, praised the CVA for their partnership and all that they do for businesses like hers.
“We love our partnership with the CVA and it’s so important because their job is to represent Northwest Indiana’s businesses,” Walker explained. “It’s probably one of our most important partnerships that we have in Northwest Indiana.”
The goal of the luncheon Wednesday afternoon was not only to celebrate tourism, but it was also to discuss the importance of “cathedral thinking,” or big ideas and investments for the future and for future generations. As guests helped themselves to a delicious spread of food, the President and CEO of the CVA, Speros Batistatos, and the keynote speaker of the luncheon, Bill Geist, stressed the importance of everyone taking significant steps for future projects, even if they may not seen those projects completed in their lifetime.
“If you were an architect in the 1400's and you were tasked with building a cathedral, you would take on that job knowing you would never live long enough to pray in that cathedral and never see the end of your work,” Batistatos said. “That’s the kind of selflessness that I want to talk to you about today and build on as we gather some thoughts on cathedral thinking.”
Those ideas of building for a better future were passed around as hundreds of guests celebrated the importance of tourism for their own community. And just like constructing a cathedral hundreds of years ago, building a better future for Northwest Indiana’s businesses, landmarks, and people is a team effort that can be seen in luncheons like the one held Wednesday afternoon.
For more information about the South Shore CVA, visit www.southshorecva.com.