Tourism officials say they aren’t sure what the economic impact will be from the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore’s recent designation as the state’s first national park, but they are confident it will be significant. “It puts us in a very elite group,” said Indiana Dunes Tourism Executive Director Lorelei Weimer, who adds the Dunes is already the state's top tourist attraction. "We have 3.6 million visitors annually, so when you look at all the national parks, we’re right under Yellowstone, we’re 7th in the nation just in recreational visits."
Weimer talked about the national park designation and potential impact on a special tourism edition of Inside INdiana Business with Gerry Dick.
The Porter County tourist destination became the nation’s 61st national park in February, after a decades-long effort by Indiana’s Congressional delegation, led by Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-1). "This action provides our shoreline with the recognition it deserves, and I hope further builds momentum to improve open and public access to all of our region’s environmental wonders," said Visclosky in a statement released after the announcement.
According to the most recent economic impact study, the Dunes generates $476 million in annual visitor spending, a number tourism officials expect to significantly increase, both inside and outside the park. "The Dunes is the hook, it’s what brings people in," said Weimer. "Our job at the tourism bureau is to get those visitors to shake off the sand south of the Dunes and that’s what drives the real spending is to get them in our communities, to stay at our hotels, go to our restaurants, shop."