How Did Brown County Build Tourism? A Case Study

Brown County, Indiana has become one of the top tourism destinations in the Midwest. Last year, more than 2 million people visited Brown County and Nashville, Indiana. Brown County is a rural county with a population of 14,000. Nashville, Indiana, the primary tourist destination in the county has a population of 800 people. In 1991, the total expenditures by tourists in the county reached $60 million. As a result, the county has 2,232 people employed in tourism related businesses. Most tourists to Brown County drive no more than four hours. Most are from Indianapolis, Cincinnati or Chicago

Brown County is Appealing

What is so appealing about Brown County? The area has a rich cultural background, and several Midwest artists' reside in the county. The rolling hills and southern hardwood forests attract visitors to a state park, which has become the most popular state park in Indiana. These physical characteristics of the region, the interesting cultural flavor, and the County's proximity to an Interstate highway provide a good base for developing tourism attractions.

Investing in Infrastructure

During the last five years, the residents of Brown County have invested in infrastructure to encourage visitors to extend their stay in the region. The County has more than 300 shops, three major hotels, a golf club and resort, a number of bed and breakfast inns, and many restaurants. Visitors might stay to attend one of Nashville's two theaters. The Nashville Playhouse produces plays in cooperation with Indiana University and "Little Opryland," which attracts many country and western entertainers.

Targeting the Market

Over the years, The Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau has encouraged and sponsored market research. Their budget for advertising and promotion is $292,000. The research shows that when tourists are categorized into family and age groups, the categories that include families and senior citizens tend to stay longer in the County than other categories of visitors.

How does this information direct promotional strategy? The Brown County Convention and Visitors Bureau encourages developers to design attractions to fit the needs of families and senior citizens -- the targeted markets. Advertising and promotional messages are designed to appeal to families and senior citizens. The attractions, shops, hotels and restaurants also cater to those markets.

Surveys show that 70 to 80 percent of tourists in Brown County are repeat visitors. Therefore, the county's promotional efforts focus on encouraging visitors to come back. Much of the information for repeat visits can be collected "at home" in Brown County. Gathering information and listening to visitors can enhance future promotional efforts and help Brown County shop and business owners fulfill needs expressed by visitors.

Success is not Easy Street

Providing services and facilities for 2 million people is a big job for a rural county. Tourists visiting Nashville might have trouble parking their cars, and townspeople complain about parking, too. Tourists might have trouble finding a public restroom, and restrooms are crowded. At meal times, patrons must wait to be seated and served in most restaurants.

Because of their success in luring tourists to Brown County, there are points of conflict between residents who chose to live in the county for "quality of live" and the tourists who are there "to have a good time." However, finding common ground between conflicting interests groups is part of building a successful tourism industry.

Keys to Success in Brown County

In Brown County, the tourism effort benefits from the County's cultural and physical resources, from easy accessibility to major urban markets, and from capable and committed leadership in the community. The community has invested and controlled the nature of tourism in Brown County. They control the theme and the type of visitors they attract. The challenge is not to continue to increase the number of visitors, but to improve the quality of the attractions, infrastructure and services to ensure that visitors return and that there is less congestion for local residents.