Visit Fort Wayne isn’t just for visitors. If you are one of the locals who have walked past the Visitors Center at 927 S. Harrison Street and never stopped in, you should pop your head inside to see what they have to offer.
They would love to have you stop in, and I’m quite certain you’ll be happy you did.
The 16 people who make up the staff of this Destination Marketing Organization are passionate about the city of Fort Wayne and Allen County and what the community has to offer. “In a nutshell, our job is all about tourism,” says Emily Stuck, Director of Visitor and Partner Services for Visit Fort Wayne. “It means we get to talk about Fort Wayne and Allen County to the entire world about how amazing our community is. We want leisure visitors, and group visitors, but we also want our residents to value and appreciate the community they live in.”
If you aren’t ‘sold’ on what this area has to offer, this isn’t the right job for you. “We’re selling Fort Wayne, but we don’t own any of the assets,” says Kristen Guthrie, Vice-President of Marketing for Visit Fort Wayne. “Our industry is a positive one because Fort Wayne has so many amazing hotels, restaurants and attractions and we get to tell the world about them.”
The economic impact of tourism is major. Stuck says more than 7 million people visit Allen County each year with a direct economic impact of over $800 million a year. “If you’re a visitor and you spend one dollar, 67 cents of that dollar stays in the community. That’s huge.”
The staff works hard to draw people here to experience what they see every day. “Once people come to Fort Wayne, they’re blown away,” says Guthrie. “We just have to invite them. We know they’ll enjoy it and want to come back and tell their friends and family about it.”
The invite goes out to locals as well. Visit Fort Wayne hosts two major events each year that highlight what our city is all about.
Savor Fort Wayne showcases a diverse group of restaurants and offers 12 delicious days of restaurant deals in January.
Be a Tourist in Your Own Hometown in September is a great way to see some of the best attractions and museums in Fort Wayne and Allen County for free.
Both events are extremely popular, but many people would be surprised at what they can find at the Visitors Center 12 months a year. The store boasts a wide array of merchandise highlighting Fort Wayne and Allen County.
“We support over a hundred local vendors,” says Stuck. “From souvenirs and t-shirts to Vera Bradley and all those things that really make Fort Wayne unique and collective. I’m really appreciative and thankful I get to showcase great local artists in a variety of ways.”
Affordable art is a theme throughout the store that Stuck is especially proud of. “You can get a sticker, a postcard, a mini print, or even the larger prints that we have in the back. We wanted to have every price point to make sure everyone can take a local piece of art home with them.”
The creative merchandise will catch your eye the minute you walk in the door, but Visit Fort Wayne at it’s core is a wealth of local information on what to see and do in the area.
“No matter where you live, residents don’t always take the time to explore their own community,” says Guthrie. “You don’t always explore outside the bubble of where you live. We really want residents to get outside that bubble and explore other parts of our community like our visitors do.”
Visit Fort Wayne has a special calendar for local residents called Current Fort Wayne. It’s meant to be that connection into the community from funs runs to bake sales and all sorts of other events big and small.
Stuck points to neighborhood brochures and information sheets as a great resource of things to do, but she also wants people to tap into the local knowledge of the staff. “We love when residents come in and say they’ve been doing the same old, same old. What else is out there?”
“Let us help be your guide to venture out a little bit. We to be that liaison to what you can see and do in Allen County. Maybe you had no idea something existed right here in your own backyard!”
It’s easy to see why the passionate people at Visit Fort Wayne are Positively Fort Wayne 365 days a year!