By ELLI SCHANK of Dubois County Herald
newsintern@dcherald.com

JASPER — Dubois County is currently anticipating two new hotels — a Comfort Inn & Suites and a Fairfield Inn & Suites — in Jasper. The SureStay Plus, the former Jasper Inn, just underwent renovations, and the Hampton Inn’s renovations are still in progress. The growth of hospitality options in the area raises the question: Do we need more rooms for visitors to Dubois County?

“I say absolutely,” said Kevin Manley, executive director of the Dubois County Tourism Commission.

He said the county doesn’t have enough space for the visitors it attracts. Specifically, Dubois County does not have enough space for sports teams that visit the county for tournaments. Many teams, which Manley estimates need at least 12 rooms each, end up staying in French Lick.

“A lot of our business for sports tourism is staying outside the county,” Manley said

Dubois County will have 11 hotels when the Comfort Inn and Fairfield Inn of Jasper are both complete. Ferdinand has two hotels, Huntingburg has one, and Jasper will have the other eight. Combined, those hotels will offer more than 760 hotel rooms to visitors and tourists. Currently there are around 610 rooms available in the county. The busiest months, when hotels have the least vacancies, are during the summer.

Whitney Hall, who is involved with sales and marketing for the tourism commission, said the availability of hotel rooms increases traffic to the community and helps bring revenue to other businesses in the area.

“We’re ecstatic about these offerings coming in,” Hall said. “It’s important to keep vitalized and increase tourism.”

Tourism is Indiana’s 10th largest industry, according to Rockport Analytics. Seventy-seven million people visit the state each year. Visitors to Dubois County spent more than $80 million in 2015.

Expansion is the ultimate and ongoing goal of the tourism commission, and Manley said the discussion is ongoing on how to bring in more visitors. One such avenue is tapping into the conference and convention market. As of now, the county has no conference center attached to a hotel, which Manley said is an essential facility.

According to Glenn Brooks, executive vice president of sales and marketing at General Hotels Corporation in Indianapolis, the large businesses found in Dubois County give his company — which is overseeing construction of Jasper’s Fairfield Inn — enough assurance that business travelers can help sustain the new hotel in Jasper.

“The most important thing is to make sure it’s a viable market,” Brooks said. “Whenever you do anything in a community everyone wants to make sure it’s successful.”

Brooks said the hotel, which will be adjacent to the upcoming River Centre, will be designed to blend in with Jasper’s aesthetic. He also said it’s anticipated that 20-30 jobs will be created by the hotel.

Hall and Manley don’t think there will be any problem with filling the new hotel rooms with guests, especially during the summer. Manley pointed out that tourism in Dubois County often extends a few weeks into the school year because out-of-state visitors have not yet returned to school.

“If the rooms are available, we work to fill them,” Manley said.