The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

JoCo works to strengthen local tourism, partner with travel industry program

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors agreed to begin a membership with Iowa Travel Industry Partners on Feb. 7.
Sara Stumpff
The Johnson County Board of Supervisors sit at a panel during a meeting at the Johnson County Administration Building in Iowa City on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2023.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors agreed to become a member of Iowa Travel Industry Partners on Feb. 7 in hopes of strengthening local tourism.

Officially starting July 2024, Johnson County will pay a yearly membership of $1,000 to the Iowa Travel Industry Partners, also known as iTIP. According to iTIP, the total economic impact of tourism in Iowa was $10.4 billion in 2022, supporting over 68,000 jobs.

Founded in July 2021, iTIP’s mission is to help spread the growth of travel in Iowa, by supporting, educating, and building relationships across the state. Previously, Iowa was set up in a regional system that was funded by the state tourism office.

After losing significant funding from the state, Iowa decided to shut down the individual regions and create iTIP, a statewide travel program.

Board members of iTIP worked for several years setting up company and statewide goals before they launched their company in 2021.

Nick Pfeiffer, the vice president of public affairs at Think Iowa City, said Think Iowa City paid for Johnson County’s iTIP membership last year.

iTIP bases its yearly membership prices on population. Johnson County’s population of around 150,000 is priced at $1,000.

Johnson County will appoint a local representative who will work directly with iTIP to learn more information about how to support Iowa’s travel industry. Chelsea Lerud, executive director of iTIP, said the board is still deciding who their representative will be.

iTIP is partnered with 115 members across Iowa, including cities such as Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and others. iTIP is also partnered with Iowan counties like Polk, Des Moines, Pottawattamie, and Dubuque counties.

Jon Green, vice chair of Johnson County Board of Supervisors, said he supported the county’s partnership with iTIP, and is eager to continue the board’s support of the many tourist opportunities provided throughout the county.

“Anything that helps bring folks to the state and Johnson County in particular is good,” Green said. “We have a lot of wonderful and natural resources, it’s a beautiful county.”

Green named some local tourism attractions including the Stanley Art Museum and the Hancher Auditorium he hopes will be supported by this partnership.

The supervisors also recognized the county’s strong and trustworthy relationship with Think Iowa City and agreed to continue the county’s membership after the organization paid for it.

“We’re always looking at partnerships, we do a lot of stuff here in the corridor, a lot with our municipal partners, nonprofits, that sort of thing,” Green said. “We recognize that working together is easier than working alone.”

Pfeiffer, who also serves as a board member of iTIP, said Iowa City had been partners with iTIP since the travel program was founded in 2021. He said their partnership is educationally beneficial to the organization.

“Just last week they did a webinar covering AI, and how to utilize it, and the pros and cons of it, so they’re always putting on different webinars,” Pfeiffer said. “You can bounce ideas off of anybody else and get feedback on anything you’re working on or any problems you’re seeing.”

In a presentation to the supervisors, Lerud explained some of the benefits the travel program provides to members. She said this includes educational webinars created to support a variety of tourism needs and provide government advocacy work.

Among these membership benefits is access to the use of the program’s new economic impact calculator. The calculator allows members to see data on the direct and indirect impacts on Iowa’s travel industry.

In a model webinar on Okoboji’s economic contribution in 2022, the calculator showed the industry supported more than 50 jobs, and that Okoboji residents spent a total output of roughly $3.7 million.

“It’s really the first time we’ve had a powerful tool that can prove all of that data for us,” Lerud said.

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About the Contributor
Sara Stumpff
Sara Stumpff, Photojournalist
Sara is a third year UI student who transfered from Kirkwood. She is a "non traditional" student who will hopefully obtain her BFA in Photography and BA in Spanish.