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Visitor's Bureau to try new marketing initiative

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

The Grant County Convention, Recreation and Visitors Commission are working on a new way to attract visitors.

The marketing method, known as 'device targeting,' allows the commission to set up an automatic message that is sent to people's phones who visit certain locations outside the county.

The commission is looking at attracting people to the Quilters Hall of Fame and the Hog Daze Motorcycle Rally.

"We're gonna try to target folks that visit the quilt shops in Wabash or Fort Wayne," said Paula Schulz, operations manager at the commission.

When someone visits either of those quilt shops they will receive a message informing them of events being held at the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion.

The Hog Daze rally was also chosen because it never comes close to selling out, according to John Lightle, executive director of the commission.

This will be the first time the commission has used a device targeting method to attract visitors into the county.

The commission has yet to find out how many visitors this tactic is expected to bring into the county.

The board also hopes legislation will be passed at the state level to allow them to collect sales and inn keeper taxes from Airbnb locations.

Airbnb is an online marketplace that allows individuals to rent out rooms or homes to guests for temporary lodging.

In the State of Indiana, there is only a state tax that is applied to the properties, according to Lightle.

"The only funds that we have to work with is what's collected by the lodging facilities in Grant County," Lightle said. "We use the bulk of that money to help develop new attractions or to promote what we have."

The Indiana Tourism Association is leading the campaign to pass the legislation on Airbnb locations, Lightle said.

Airbnb hosts in Indiana took in $36 million in 2018, according to Schulz. There were 4,600 property owners across the state, each one earning about $4,800 annually.

If the tax is passed, it would allow the visitors bureau to invest more in attracting tourists into the county.

The next meeting of the commission takes place April 9.