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Fort Wayne, Allen County launch tourism master plan effort

(Darrin Wright/1190 WOWO 107.5 FM)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Inside Indiana Business) – Tourism officials in Allen County have launched an initiative to build a 10-year roadmap for the area’s tourism sector, which leaders say is a critical tool in economic growth and development. Visit Fort Wayne has contracted with market research and consulting firm CSL International to help develop a Tourism Master Plan for Fort Wayne and Allen County. The latest data, which pre-dates the pandemic, shows Allen County attracts 6.5 million visitors who spend $741 million annually.

“We want to know where we’re going in the next 10 years, by way of ensuring that visitor spending economy is growing,” said Visit Fort Wayne President and CEO Jill Boggs.

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Boggs said Allen County must continually examine what the industry is doing long-term.

“Our competition is growing. This is something that is looked at and recognized in our state and other great destinations nationwide. A standstill approach to this is not an option,” said Boggs.

CSL has already begun the 20-week process to gather input from community members and industry stakeholders. The research firm will examine current tourism assets, including Electric Works, Promenade Park, sports venues, and conference facilities.

Boggs expects to receive a report by early June.

“They will provide us with a plan. And then our steering committee as well as some other stakeholders, we will gather and prioritize any suggested plans,” Boggs explained.

Boggs, who was named president and CEO of Visit Four Wayne in January 2022, says the first year on the job was about gaining knowledge and insight to the tourism needs of the community.

“I really listened to staff…looked at policies, procedures, everything you would do internally. But I was [also] meeting a lot of stakeholders in the community. And that’s where this whole idea of a tourism master plan surfaced. And I told myself, ‘I must be crazy. I’m not even here yet to launch something like this.’ But the time is right for with all the development that is going on.”

The project is in partnership with Greater Fort Wayne Inc., Allen County Government, Capital Improvement Board, and the City of Fort Wayne to help with the development of the plan. Collectively, they are paying CSL $180,000 to analyze the tourism sector and provide a roadmap for the future.

Boggs says the results are not only about making Fort Wayne a better destination for visitors, but to improve quality of life for residents.

“One thing I know for sure, is we really want careful, thoughtful strategic planning in this, we always want to keep our quality place in our residents. You know, comfort, safety, our environment, sustainability, everything, very well planned and then impact again, visitors will come if our quality places great, and there’s amenities for him that residents can also enjoy. So, it is very purposeful, very strategic.”

Boggs says through this investment of time and money, the community has an opportunity to continue building upon economic development successes and a vibrant tourism and hospitality industry.

“With the momentum going on currently, I think that we want to ensure visitor spending economy going forward the next 10 years. I think they go hand in hand,” said Boggs.

Click here to learn more about the Tourism Master Plan process.

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