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Road Trip Iowa

February 24, 2014 - Jane Whitmore
“Travelers in Iowa spent more money in the state in 2013 versus 2012, according to the 2013 Iowa Welcome Center Survey Report. The Iowa Economic Development Authority’s Iowa Tourism Office conducted the annual study.” That’s the opening paragraph from a news release highlighting tourism in Iowa, travel party spending, and information on Iowa’s Welcome Centers. I well remember when Emmetsburg was awarded one of the original Iowa Welcome Centers. At the time, Marge DellaCroce was the Chamber Director. She put together a dynamite application that landed the Welcome Center in Emmetsburg. It was quite a coup for us and the envy of those in surrounding communities. Today, Deb Hite manages a warm and inviting Welcome Center, manned by friendly and knowledgeable volunteers from the community. Haven’t been there? It’s right next door to the Chamber Office at 1121 Broadway. Need a map or a brochure about an Iowa site? They’ve got what you need...with a smile. Here is what the report had to say about travelers in Iowa: Travel party spending per day on lodging, entertainment, transportation, food and shopping increased 8.5 percent from $263.20 in 2012 to $285.47 in 2013. The survey also showed an increase in the number of trips in Iowa. On average visitors took 3.4 trips in the state in 2013 compared to 2.9 trips in 2012. The most popular destinations were historical attractions, museums, scenic byways, outdoor recreation and shopping. Iowa’s system of 19 Welcome Centers provides a valuable service to travelers. In addition to stocking hundreds of brochures on Iowa destinations, each center has Certified Travel Counselors available to personally assist visitors with the goal of prolonging their time and spending in Iowa. Combined, the centers served nearly half a million travelers in 2013. More than a third of them extended their stay in Iowa based on information they received at a Welcome Center. “The desire to travel is one of our most basic and intrinsic values, and we’re increasingly seeing people make travel a priority,” said Iowa Tourism Office Manager Shawna Lode. “Whether they are passing through or making Iowa their final vacation destination, the travel counselors at Iowa’s Welcome Centers play an important role in growing Iowa’s economy by encouraging travelers to stay in our state longer.” Over the years, we have stopped at a number of Iowa Welcome Centers. With my travel partner, Dorothy Muckey from Algona, we crisscrossed the state to attend Iowa Press Women meetings. We always took the “scenic route,” visiting out-of-the-way places, mostly on purpose and sometimes by accident. If we spotted a rural church spire high above the trees or an interesting looking farm house, we would veer off the path and take a closer look. We met some interesting people that way, too. On one of our trips, we went into the town of Eldon to see the house Grant Wood used as a backdrop for his painting American Gothic. We stood in front of the house with an imaginary pitchfork in hand and took some photos. There were lace curtains in the windows, giving the house a lived-in look. Then we walked around back and there were bicycles and toys. Only then did we realize that someone actually did live in the house. No one came out to see what we were doing – they were probably used to tourists. Our definition of “road trip” ranges from driving a mile to see a flock of migrating birds, to driving half-way across Iowa to hike in a state park. Design your own day-trip to discover something new in Iowa. The new “travel I()WA” book is now available at the Chamber Office/Welcome Center in Emmetsburg. Or go online to (travel No matter where you travel, stop in if you are near a Welcome Center. Or stop at the Emmetsburg Welcome Center before you leave. You meet nicest people there. Did you know: Tourism in Iowa generates more than $7.6 billion in expenditures, employs 64,400 people statewide and generates $328 million in state taxes.


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