ELKHART — The Elkhart County Convention & Visitors Bureau has officially opened its new visitor center, less than a quarter-mile from its former location.

At 7,200 square feet, the new visitor center, at 3421 Cassopolis St., is about 20 percent larger than its former location, 219 Caravan Drive, where the center had been for more than 25 years.

Tourism growth across northern Indiana inspired the decision to move into the new space, CVB officials said. 

“With this new space, we really wanted to re-invest in the community,” said Levi King, president of the Elkhart County Convention and Visitor Bureau’s board of directors. “It was important for us to amplify our efforts to market and promote Elkhart County for the benefit of visitors as well as the small businesses which rely on a healthy tourism industry.”

The new space contains several important features that celebrate the best the area has to offer, officials said. This includes:

•   The living wall at the main entrance showcases colorful and vibrant plants that mimic the popular Quilt Gardens and the beauty of Elkhart County’s landscape.

•   Displays throughout spotlight products made in Elkhart County that thousands enjoy, from the intricate woodwork of local Amish artisans to woven rugs and household furnishings created by fabric artists to popular foods whipped up at kitchens and bakeries throughout the area to gorgeous functional pottery fired by clay artists.

•   Colorful vibrant quilt wall hangings created locally bring splashes of energy throughout the new space.

•  Comfortable seating areas offer residents and visitors a chance to read through the brochures and magazines about local and regional attractions.

•   A modern conference space allows the Elkhart County CVB and other community partners state-of-the-art meeting space for seminars and other learning opportunities.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Tuesday afternoon where business leaders, community members and county and city leaders alike were in attendance to celebrate the new space.

Diana Lawson, CEO of the Elkhart County visitor and convention bureau, said the new location is an ideal way to reach travelers at approximately 2,000 hotel rooms around Elkhart’s Exit 92 on the Indiana Toll road.

“There are so many hotels and rooms here in this neighborhood we literally serve hundreds of thousands of people each year,” she said.

A 2018 report shows that visitors to Elkhart County contributed $550 million to the local economy in one year, including $374 million of direct visitor spending going into the cash registers of local businesses. Economic impact grew at an estimated 3 percent rate, adjusted for inflation. The 2018 tourism season was also strong, with 526,000-plus room nights sold at Elkhart County lodging properties.

Commissioner Suzanne Weirick touted the annual economic impact that tourism contributes to Elkhart County.

“This doesn’t come from the residents, it comes from visitors who enjoy the restaurants, galleries, parks and all the things we take for granted because we live here,” she said. “They’re amazing assets that we need to continue to enjoy.”

The visitor center gives travelers a chance to get personalized trip recommendations from the staff of destination concierges, while also learning about the wide diversity of attractions and things to do throughout the Elkhart County communities of Elkhart, Goshen, Bristol, Middlebury, Nappanee and Wakarusa, as well as Shipshewana in LaGrange County.

“The success of Elkhart County’s tourism and hospitality industry would not be possible without the connections our partners enjoy with us and with each other as we work to promote this region,” Lawson said. “Our work with each of the cities and towns to choose smart and impactful investments in arts and culture, parks and green spaces, and community events is paying off.”

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