Hotel sales reach record

Bartholomew County’s total hotel room sales hit a record $31.1 million in 2015, a 4.5 percent year-over-year increase, according to a study for the Columbus Area Visitors Center.

The statistics are from a hotel revenue benchmarking report by Nashville-based STR Inc., reported during Wednesday’s annual meeting of the tourism agency by Cindy Waddle, president of the center’s board. About 85 people attended.

The STR report is a new, more detailed tool now used by the visitors center, she said.

“We already knew that 2015 was a strong year based on tax collections,” Waddle said. “But our STR report validated this and provided credibility to our pronouncements as well as highlighted possibilities for the future.”

The data can be used for a more pointed, targeted marketing and promotion plan, Waddle said.

Karen Niverson, the center’s executive director, highlighted the fact that 2015 promotion strategies led by director of marketing Erin Hawkins were successful enough to reach an estimated 20 million people with Columbus’ message — from architectural wonders to sports tournaments, an effort led by Eric Marvin.

In fact, 103,315 people attended 77 sports tournaments, with guests spending nearly $9 million, according to the visitors center’s data.

In other statistics, Niverson reported:

More than 20,000 guests stopped in at the visitors center facility on Fifth Street over 343 days.

The center’s retail sales of $158,000, an effort led by gift shop manager Jan Banister, increased 9 percent increase over 2014.

The visitors center website maintained by Don Nissen, director of information technology, hosted 156,000 visitors.

About 10,000 people took architectural tours. Niverson and Hawkins also showed the latest, 30-second television commercial about Columbus airing in the Indianapolis and Chicago markets. The effort, part of a $50,000 visitors center buy-in to a $500,000 Indiana tourism campaign, shows a quick mix of architectural landmarks and opens by referring to the city as “a small-town architectural mecca” and “a modernist gem.”

A team from Indianapolis-based Williams Randall Marketing, which developed the state’s promotional campaign theme of “Honest To Goodness Indiana,” coordinated the spot.

Visitors center leaders also congratulated the year’s 19 agencies and organizations promoting events and functions and receiving one of the center’s grants.

By the numbers 2015


In millions of dollars, total economic impact of sports tournaments


Visitor spending in millions of dollars


Miller House Tours


Number of social media interactions

Author photo
Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5672.