SOUTHEAST INDIANA (WHAS11) -- The sound of roaring water echoed through the cool caverns. Deep below Southeast Indiana, at a place called Squire Boone’s Caverns, we wound our way walking on metal grating. Colorful lights illuminated shapes that had taken centuries to form.
Officials with the park say about 25,000 visitors pour into this place every year. The site about 15 miles south of Corydon, Ind. is one of several caves in the area. Thursday it was also the host to Indiana lawmakers who had traveled for a taste of the area and to learn about the health of the local tourism industry.
“So, if you think of every time you've gone 50 miles from home, you are considered a tourist," said Carrie Lambert, Executive Director of the Indiana Tourism Association. “You're putting money into a different economy, you're not in your own backyard, so when you think of it in those terms I think you recognize how big tourism really is.”
State Senate Assistant Majority Whip, Republican Erin Houchin was enjoying the day with family and selling her colleagues on the one-of-a-kind places to make family memories and support the local economy.
“I hope that bringing other legislators here will give them a chance to see what Southern Indiana has to offer," said Senator Houchin.
But beyond all of the fun things to do in Southern Indiana, the talk of tourists flowing to the area and business booming, there is a political issue just below the surface. Two years ago then-Governor Mike Pence signed religious freedoms bill that at the time some thought would kill Indiana tourism.
But both Senator Houchin and Carrie Lambert say that’s not been the reality.
“At the end of the day, I don't think it had a long term impact and here, in Southern Indiana certainly, tourism is growing and thriving," insisted Sen Houchin.
Carrie Lambert agreed, saying that while some convention business was impacted, other travelers continue to come to Indiana.
“As far as our leisure traveler, and people that are coming in experiencing the two and three overnight stay, we haven't seen it impact us”, said Lambert. “We've actually been growing tourism so I think that speaks highly to the product that we offer, the experience that you get when you come here and the people that know and have experienced us and say I'm going to go back there.”
As for a more recent political decision and whether it might impact tourism, both Senator Houchin and Lambert suggest that, so far, the recent gasoline tax increase has not had a negative impact on Hoosier tourism.