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An Indiana tourism slogan that was panned as too folksy when it was unveiled last year could be scrapped because of fallout over a religious objections law that critics say makes the phrase ring hollow.
A New York public relations firm is expected to look at the “Honest to Goodness Indiana” slogan as part of a $2 million review of the impact of the law signed by Gov. Mike Pence in March. Many companies canceled travel to Indiana amid concerns that the law was anti-gay.
Tourism officials say they’re still feeling the effects despite changes to the law’s language designed to address the discrimination concerns.
Carrie Lambert, executive director of the Indiana Tourism Association, told the Indianapolis Business Journal that the association received 500 emails from people “expressing their disgust” over the law after its passage.
“We have a lot of meeting and tour planners telling us that now is just not the time to announce you’re coming to Indiana. The bookings are drying up, and that could cause a big issue in three to five years,” Lambert said.
Many say the reaction to the law makes it even harder to sell the “Honest to Goodness Indiana” slogan.
Jo Wade, president of Visit Lafayette-West Lafayette, said at the time the bill was passed, “people didn’t see that as honest or good.”
“People want to grab anything they can to remember their anger toward our state, and Honest to Goodness could be a flare-up,” Wade said.
Indiana Office of Tourism Development Executive Director Mark Newman said in a statement that the “Honest to Goodness” summer campaign began in April as scheduled.
But Lambert said there is a “sense of urgency” about the slogan and what direction Porter Novelli will take.
“We have a hurdle in front of us and we have to determine how to get over it,” she said.
Not everyone would be happy to see the slogan go.
“The campaign did a great job of highlighting all the fun and entertaining things to do in this state,” said Tom Bannon, executive director of the Anderson/Madison County Visitors Bureau.”
Todd Muffley, CEO of Carmel-based Fat Atom Marketing, said he worries that Porter Novelli could take the state in an equally damaging direction.
“If they paint Indiana as too liberal, it’s not going to be seen as genuine,” he said.