When it comes to tourism, small businesses are leading the state’s industry — something Robbie Mixell sees first hand.

“We usually keep track of where people are from and last year we had people from 27 different states and nine different countries,” said Mixell, owner of Canoe Country, 6660 S. County Road 900 West, Daleville.

More than 90 percent of the state’s tourism, which is the third largest industry in Indiana, is operated by small businesses owners like Mixell and almost a quarter of a million Hoosiers are employed in the industry.

On Tuesday, Canoe Country and 20 other travel and business exhibitors will be on hand during an “Explore the World in a Day” event hosted by Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, 4500 Dan Patch Circle. The event, which is free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Terrace Showroom, will feature Indiana’s new tourism campaign “Honest to Goodness.”

The campaign is based on the Hoosier hospitality reputation of friendly people and old-fashioned charm.

According to the brand’s narrative, “Our people do not pretend to be something they are not, because they are proud to be who they are. That genuine personality translates into authentic experiences for visitors traveling our state.”

It’s a brand that not only works, but is good for business.

Each year more than $10 billion is spent in Indiana from people touring the state. That creates more than $1 billion in state and local tax revenue.

Tom Bannon, executive director of the Anderson Madison County Visitors Bureau, plans to speak at the event and said promoting Madison County attractions not only brings travelers to the area, it helps to encourage local conferences and tournaments, spurring the economy’s growth.

“One of our difficulties is the word tourism,” Bannon said. “People think tourism is a vacation and people aren’t taking vacations to Anderson. But, to me, tourism is entertainment and there are seven to eight main attractions we have that we can promote for people to spend the day in Madison County.”

Bannon said the Anderson Madison County Visitors Bureau’s website had 1.7 million page views last year and he expects to receive more than 2 million page views this year.

But people are not just visiting the website — they are traveling to Madison County.

According to a 2012 economic study of the county, $135.3 million in revenue was generated by local tourism, Bannon said. About $11.8 million was spent on lodging, $28.4 million was spent on food and beverage, $17.1 million was spent on shopping, $45.7 million was spent on entertainment and recreation, and $32.3 million was spent on transportation.

Madison County ranks 16th out of 92 counties in overall tourism spending.

Mark Newman, executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, will also speak at the event on the importance of the tourism industry to the state and ways to advance the industry across the state.

“This is an opportunity for the public and Hoosier Park patrons to learn about vacation planning locally and around the world,” said Mike Kase, a sales representative for Hoosier Park Racing & Casino.

Kase said there will be 30-minute presentations throughout the day on different topics like how to take better vacation photos and how to increase vacation time by reducing stress. Cruise line and all inclusive resort representatives will also be in attendance and several special giveaways are planned for the event.

The “Explore the World in a Day” event coincides with this year’s Visit Indiana Week, which runs through May 11.

But Mixell says you don’t have to travel to experience the best the world has to offer — it’s in our back yard.

Each year Mixell said he books thousands of rentals for canoes, kayaks and tubing on the White River between April 1 and Oct. 31.

“It’s chilly right now and you probably don’t want to spend a lot of time in it, but I have a couple of guys out fishing today,” Mixell said on Friday. “We have the best smallmouth bass rivers in the state.

“And you can get out and enjoy nature locally without having to travel long distances.”

Exploring the world in a day What: A public tourism event hosted by Hoosier Park Racing & Casino, featuring special speakers, travel representatives and giveaways. Where: The Terrace Showroom at Hoosier Park Racking & Casino, 4500 Dan Patch Circle When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, May 6. Cost: Free.

(c)2014 The Herald Bulletin (Anderson, Ind.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Photo Credit: Canoes prepared for an outdoors trip in Indiana. Fuzzy Gerdes / Flickrv