Mayor Joe Hogsett said Thursday that the city will press forward with its $1 million effort to bring in-state visitors to Indianapolis, even as it takes a step backward in reopening efforts due to a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

The city, in partnership with Visit Indy, launched the “You’ve Earned It” advertising campaign July 7, with hopes of boosting the city’s badly bruised tourism industry.

Hogsett said the city “may backload the money” associated with the campaign in order take advantage of opportunities that occur in the weeks and months ahead, but remains committed to bringing in visitors.

In his comments during a news briefing, Hogsett said it’s important to continue the campaign because it drives traffic to the city at a critical time for downtown businesses.

“The campaign will continue because we want people to continue to visit the restaurants throughout downtown and the community that will remain open,” he said. “The effort will continue because we need people to return to downtown.”

About $75,000 of the allotted $1 million has so far been spent, generating about $400,000 in visitor spending, said Chris Gahl, vice president of Visit Indy. He said the tourism group and the city are “pausing a few pieces” of the campaign, but a majority of the effort will continue.

“Based on travel sentiment survey results, we will still have 60 percent of the ads running, inviting Indiana residents to safely visit Indy in support of tourism,” he said.

The city is taking several steps backward in its reopening efforts, including limiting dining room seating at restaurants to 50% capacity—also requiring them to close from midnight to 5 a.m.—and closing bars that do not serve food. Tourism, cultural, entertainment and sports venues are also required to limit capacity to 25% of venue occupancy.

Gahl said he does not anticipate the rollback in reopening the city to have a deleterious effect on the ad campaign.

“Even with today’s news, we feel confident our in-state marketing campaign, inviting Indiana residents ‘home,’ will produce continued results, as we’ve already seen a bump in hotel stays … tied to the advertising campaign launching,” Gahl said.

The ad campaign—expected to run through Sept. 7—includes radio, podcast and television spots and a variety of digital ads in markets across the state. It relied on data from a survey of 5,000 Indiana residents that showed 49% plan to take a trip this summer, including 86% by car.

The campaign gives Indiana residents up to 50% off on hotel rates.

Gahl said the campaign’s larger goal is getting hospitality workers back to work.

Indianapolis employs about 83,000 people through its hospitality industry, but as of early July, about 50% of those individuals were unemployed.

Downtown’s hotel occupancy has been abysmal since March, staying mostly in the single digits compared with the previously expected 70% occupancy rate for this point in the year.

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