Heritage Tourism

Madison’s historic attractions are key
to its Heritage Tourism efforts

Spending habits of travelers who seek
cultural experience put money into local economies

By Ruth Wright
Staff Writer

MADISON, Ind.(February 2003) – Travel and tourism, one of the largest retail industries in the United States, means big bucks.
In 2000, Americans accumulated more than $580 billion in travel-related expenses, while the industry directly supported 7.8 million jobs, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). Such statistics indicate that, as an industry, travel and tourism is a major contemporary economic force. Specifically, “heritage tourism” has emerged as a powerful segment of that industry.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Heritage Tourism Program defines heritage tourism as “travel designed to experience the places and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past.”

From left, Kim Nyberg,
John Staicer and
John Galvin.

“Cultural and heritage tourism ranks among the top activities for U.S. travelers,” said Heritage Tourism Program director Amy Jordan Webb. Nearly 93 million Americans say they included at least one cultural, arts, heritage or historic activity or event while traveling in the past year, according to “The Historic-Cultural Traveler,” 2001 Edition, produced by the TIA.
The study also found that the group stayed longer and spent, on average, nearly 30 percent more per trip than all U.S. travelers.
Such statistics have captured the attention of tourism officials in many states and regions.
“We know from national figures it is a huge business,” said Marianna Weinzapfel, deputy director of the Indiana Tourism Division. “They’re definitely the type of tourists we want to attract, and Indiana has the product they’re looking for.” As a state, Indiana has much to offer in the way of cultural and historical tourism opportunities. Those resources have inspired the formation of many groups that further the state’s position as a heritage destination.
Historic Southern Indiana (HSI) is a grassroots organization founded by the University of Southern Indiana and dedicated to preserving, enhancing and promoting Indiana’s historical, natural and recreational resources. One successful effort of the organization has been the development of the Ohio River Scenic Route, which runs along the river through rural communities in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio.
HSI’s work on the Indiana portion of the byway has been cited as an example of success by the National Trust. Linda Lytle of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau is a member of the board of directors of HSI. She said studies show that tourists are looking for alternatives to interstate highway travel. Foreign and domestic travelers alike, said Lytle, want to see hometown America. National Scenic byways are one way they can do just that. Development of the byway, which was assisted by the Heritage Tourism Program and the Rural Heritage Program, has resulted in official designation as a National Scenic Byway in all three states and has secured more than $400,000 in federal funding to help the states install directional signage, complete interpretive planning and to begin marketing efforts.

Lanier Days re-enactor
Steve Thomas (left).

Historic Hoosier Hills, based in Versailles, Ind., also works to develop the economic climate that promotes historic and natural resources in southern Indiana. Gary Conant of Historic Hoosier Hills explained the organization’s role in heritage tourism and preservation, saying, “We primarily serve as an umbrella organization that supports a number of local community groups that are working on improving the standards and quality of living.”
According to Conant, that main purpose has evolved into providing assistance to groups interested in preserving and maintaining the history of the area. Two examples are the Jefferson Proving Ground Heritage Partnership, an effort to record and capture the history of the area before and after military occupation, and the John Hunt Morgan Heritage Trail, which recently opened.The organization’s support of these projects and others has contributed to additional opportunities for heritage tourism in southern Indiana.
Of course, a look at heritage tourism in southern Indiana wouldn’t be complete without the city of Madison. Called “the princess of the rivers” by former CBS commentator Charles Kuralt, Madison’s rich history and impressive architecture offers visitors a rare and unique experience.
With 133 blocks listed in the National Register of Historic Places and 1,700 buildings recognized as historically significant, Madison is practically a blueprint for what it takes to establish a viable heritage tourism trade. The city is considered by many the crown jewel of the state when it comes to historic preservation and architecture.
“It’s very unusual that a community of only 13,000 people can boast of a large base of historical places,” said John Galvin, president and executive director of Historic Madison Inc.
A non-profit organization founded in 1960 by John Windle, HMI has been a driving force in the preservation and restoration of buildings and monuments in the Madison area for more than 40 years.
Galvin admits that while preservation and restoration are the primary focus of HMI and similar groups, the result of such efforts directly translates into an economically viable sector of commerce.
“People aren’t coming from out of town to shop at Wal-Mart,” said Galvin. “They can shop at Wal-Mart in their own town.”
Instead, Galvin said, it’s the number of places of historical interest that create a draw to the Madison area. HMI owns and maintains 16 historic properties, including the Judge Jeremiah Sullivan House (ca. 1818) and the Schroeder Saddletree Factory (ca. 1878).
The HMI-owned properties, as well as the state-owned Lanier Mansion and many other privately owned historic structures, all add to the allure of Madison as a tourist destination based on the sheer volume and the quality it has to offer.
According to Webb, director of Heritage Tourism for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Madison has “an extremely strong product” when it comes to the growing heritage tourism industry.
And while Madison’s heritage tourism “product” may in part be attributed to serendipity,
much of it is by design. Aside from lobbying for ordinances that protect the historic district, community leaders and groups, including HMI, the Collaborative Marketing Project of Jefferson County, the Jefferson County Board of Tourism and the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, have produced some tangible evidence of their efforts in developing heritage tourism in the area.
One specific example is the series of booklets which includes “A Visitors Guide to Madison Indiana, Walking Tour of Historic Madison, Indiana” and “A Portrait of Historic Jefferson County Hanover & Madison, Indiana.” The booklets, professionally designed by Robertson Design Group Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn., were the result of the Collaborative Marketing Project of Jefferson County, which began four years ago to implement a comprehensive land-use plan and a marketing plan developed by county citizens.
The committee wanted to “raise the bar” for print material for Madison and Jefferson County, according to Kim Nyberg, director of programs for HMI and a member of the Collaborative Marketing Project and Heritage Brochures Committee. The designer, said Nyberg, was chosen for the quality of his product.
John Robertson of Robertson Design has been in the graphic design business for 30 years. Robertson and a professional photographer visited Madison several times to learn all he could about the area and to take pictures. Robertson said that the firm’s goal was to embrace all of the history and beauty of Madison and package it in a manner that would capture the mood of the city and intrigue visitors. The brochures share a seamless thread of design.

Civil War re-enactors at Lanier Days.

“It ties everything together for the visitor and makes their visit more pleasant,” Robertson said. He compared the effect to one that a visitor to historic Williamsburg, Va., might experience.
“When you visit (Williamsburg), all of the materials you receive as a visitor have been thought through and planned so that they work together. The whole thing is one complete identity and image,” said Robertson.
That effect has been echoed in the Madison designs. The brochures and signage, including trolley signs, all share the same typeface and sport the same ribbon-centered logo.
Another way that Madison community leaders are promoting heritage tourism is an initiative to secure designation by the federal government of the community as a National Historic Landmark District. HMI, in cooperation with the Jefferson County Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, the National Park Service and the Indiana State Department of National Resources-Division of Historic Preservation and Architecture has commissioned a consulting firm, The Westerly Group, to work on the application for nomination.
Camille Fife, president of the firm, said that part of the process includes a comprehensive survey to itemize all of Madison’s historic resources. This includes buildings, sites, objects and structures. Fife anticipates the process could be completed as early as April, depending upon how quickly the review returns from the National Park Service. If Madison is recognized as a National Historic Landmark District, “It should be very good for promotion,” said Fife.
Jon Smith, of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources-Division of Historic Preservation and Archeology, said that getting Madison designated as a National Historic Landmark district has been a long-term goal. He said that if recognized by the federal government, Madison will join the ranks of such cities as Charleston, S.C., and Savannah, Ga.
“It’s like the difference between having a major league baseball team and a minor league baseball team in your town,” said John Staicer, HMI’s Saddletree project director. If Madison obtains the designation, it will be a major coup for the community.
Can more be done to boost heritage tourism in the Madison area? According to Webb, it’s important to target a specific market segment. One segment that may be vital to the tourism trade, particularly heritage tourism, is the aging baby boomer population. A substantial portion of the population, “boomers” are looking for “value-added” experiences, the kind that heritage tourism can offer, Webb said.
Also to consider, said Webb, is how many tourists the area can handle. While tourism is considered basically a “clean” industry, in that it doesn’t pollute the environment, large numbers of tourists can put hefty demands on infrastructure, such as roads, utilities and public services.
In fact, one of the biggest challenges facing heritage tourism programs is ensuring that the cities and towns can meet the demands raised by a large number of visitors. Simply stated, heritage tourism has the potential to generate a high volume of visitor traffic. It is up to the community to develop that traffic as a benefit while preserving the historical resources which generate it.

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