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Kokomo community sees tourism growth


In an effort to measure the impact of tourism in Kokomo and Howard County, the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau again commissioned an economic impact study on tourism and travel.

The findings are in and show that travelers’ impact on the area has grown since the previous study completed in 2013.

Conducted by Certec Inc., the study found that visitors to Kokomo and Howard County contributed $135.4 million to Howard County’s economy in 2016. Of that, direct expenditures by visitors accounted for $97 million. That’s a 15 percent increase from the 2013 study period.

The spending came from the nearly 1.3 million destination and pass-through travelers in Howard County in 2016, the study reports. Primary expenditures went toward food and beverage, shopping and lodging purchases.

Economic benefits of tourism begin when a traveler to Howard County, either an Indiana resident or an out-of-state visitor, spends money in the county.

“We conduct this study as an effort to quantify the magnitude of the economic impact of the tourism and travel industry on the community,” said Charlie Sparks, President and CEO of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance. “Tourism has significant impact on the local economy. It creates new jobs, supports area businesses, and increases demand for goods and services related to travel and hospitality.”

According to the study, a total of 1,541 jobs in Howard County resulted from the tourism industry — up from 1,404 jobs from the 2013 study. And, the study finds, more than one-third of the jobs created were in high-wage occupations. Tourism-generated jobs provided nearly $27.2 million in wages in 2016 to Howard County workers.

“These study results show that it is imperative for the Visitors Bureau to continue promoting Kokomo and Howard County as an ideal destination for visitors, conference and event organizers, and pass-through travelers,” Sparks said.

With the many attractions and events here in Howard County, promoting the community is not a hard task, said Sherry Matlock, manager of the Greater Kokomo Visitors Bureau. The community’s rich historical significance also contributes greatly to the community’s appeal to travelers.

“Kokomo and Howard County has the best of both worlds in terms of attractions,” Matlock said. “Our community has preserved its rich automotive and glass manufacturing history as well as added modern attractions and amenities of importance to today’s travelers. With a thriving downtown, museum and recreational activities, a growing foodie and craft beer movement, and a variety of accommodations, Kokomo is well-poised to pull down even greater results in the next impact study.”

Certec is a Lexington, Ky.-based firm specializing in destination research and market analysis. Data was collected through tourism business surveys and on-site visitor surveys conducted earlier this year.