The city’s tourism arm is seeking an increase to its budget next year as it looks to boost marketing efforts.
Visit Indy plans to request a 3 percent funding hike from the Marion County Capital Improvement Board of Managers during contract discussions at the board’s meeting Friday.
The increase is in line with previous requests made by Visit Indy, which annually receives about 85 percent to 90 percent of its overall operational budget from the quasi-governmental body. The group received nearly $12.7 million from the CIB this year, with the rest of its funding coming from partners and events hosted by the group.
Visit Indy’s proposed CIB allocation for next year is almost $13.1 million—an increase of $380,333—as part of an expected operational budget of about $15.4 million overall. Other than the budget increase, little else was changed in the contract, which is revisited annually.
Chris Gahl, senior vice president of Visit Indy, said the added CIB funds will be “strategically invested in sales and marketing programs” focused on attracting new meetings and conventions to the city. He said the 3 percent increase request has become standard in recent years as the cost of doing business increases.
“The increase will be invested into our larger, existing 12-month integrated marketing program aimed at turning the attention of meeting planners toward Indianapolis,” he said.
Visit Indy's overall budget is actually expected to decrease in 2019 from the 2018 budget, which was a little over $16 million. That figure—a year-over-year boost of $1.5 million—was needed because the city hosted a 2,000-person conference for meeting professionals in June. Those added funds were used for marketing materials and to provide services to the event’s participants, Gahl said.
Visit Indy generally works closely with the CIB to bring sporting events, conventions, meetings and other activities to the Indianapolis area—often at facilities owned by the board, including Lucas Oil Stadium, Bankers Life Fieldhouse and the Indiana Convention Center. The group also works with museums, event centers and other venues throughout the Indianapolis area.
In 2016, the most recent year with data available, more than 28.6 million people visited Indianapolis for leisure or business, according to a report by Rockport Analytics.
Gahl said he expects that number will continue to climb in years to come.
“We are very optimistic our momentum will continue into 2019, as we are riding a wave created by news of the convention center expansion and additional hotel inventory adding to our city’s skyline,” Gahl said.
The CIB is expected to vote on the proposed contract during Friday’s meeting.
The CIB gets about 80 percent of its revenue from state and local taxes, with the rest coming from concessions, parking fees and investments. The organization recently asked the state for an additional $8 million in annual funding to help finance major renovations at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and other venues.