I was thinking about travel, tourism and retirement. Which led me to consider how little our state does to encourage people to visit and retire here.
Our Indiana highway map has lots of ads about where you might go, but doesn’t help you get where you want to go. Most state highway maps include good maps of the largest cities. Indiana shows you only Indianapolis. Either we have no other cities or we are ashamed of them. But how can there be room for city maps when we have sold one whole side of our map to advertisers?
Many states have impressive, sparkling clean “Welcome Centers” as you enter the state. Indiana has a fine showplace off the highway in Hammond, but that’s it. Our other “Welcome Centers” are adjuncts to smelly toilets. Our website is OK, but look for yourself and see what others have done.
For decades Hoosier officials charged with promoting travel and tourism have bemoaned the low level of funding they receive. In addition, it’s virtually impossible to gather statistics on travelers and their activities. Firms in the travel and tourism business don’t want to cooperate with government, to reveal information they believe will help only their competitors and increase their taxes.
Nationally, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) maintains a Travel and Tourism Satellite Account on the industry with funding from the Office of Travel and Tourism Industries. Those data don’t (can’t) distinguish between money spent by Americans on the road or Aussie visitors at the 500 race.
What the numbers tell us is that travel and tourism accounted for five percent of all economic activity (GDP) in 2015, down from 5.8 percent in 2000. Although at an all-time high in 2015, Travel and Tourism output grew by only 11 percent since 2000 while the national economy advanced 30 percent.
This industry is important to all states because it can set the ground to attract and retain retirees, people who earned and saved money in the past, money they will now spend in a new setting. Go after the wealthier among these people and they will put few demands on public services while rewarding private businesses and local institutions.
Which brings us to a weak “study” of the best places to retire by Bankrate.com. Four of the five top places in the nation are in the D.C. suburbs. Carmel ranks 137th of 196 U.S. cities, Anderson 160th, and Indianapolis 176th. No other Hoosier places are mentioned.
But that’s what is out there and what people will read. We haven’t heard a word from candidates for governor or the legislature about their plans to attract more travelers, tourists or retirees to Indiana. Perhaps they’re too busy worrying about who uses which restroom.
The award-winning Indianapolis Airport is a great place to watch people and think about whatever you happen to think about.