More Than a Race

Each May, the energy in this city is palpable.  Each May, there’s a contagious enthusiasm emanating from the “Racing Capital of the World.”  For more than a century, this crescendoing buzz has helped Indy take a pole position as an international city to visit.

TDrivers at the Indy 500, the racing capital of the worldhis was evident last May, when record-breaking crowds raced into Indy for the 100th running of the largest single-day sporting event on the planet.  We witnessed a strong 10 percent increase in the number of international visitors—with the UK, Germany, and Canada taking the podium.  The Memorial Day weekend also helped generate a healthy nine-figure economic impact.

The world was also watching via TV, with nearly 300 million viewers spread across more than 200 countries.  A record-setting number of international media also attended in person. Reporters from Italy, Japan, Spain, Mexico, China, and other countries sent stories back home about the race, its drivers, and also the host city.  That’s brand-building marketing exposure helping position Indy as a city offering more than our famed race cars.

The foundation block of Indy’s brand is racing. Without it, we wouldn’t be passing the competition as an international city to live, work, play, and visit. As someone who helps market Indy outside of Indy on a daily basis, hosting this mega event has helped us attract international conventions.  It’s helped catch the attention of global airlines, now eyeing new nonstop international routes into our stunning IND airport.

Chris Gahl discusses the impact of international visitors at the racing capital of the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.In my nearly 40 years of life, anytime I’ve traveled the globe and proudly stated where I’m from, the reaction has been the same. “Home to the Indy 500!”  It’s our calling card. It’s our conversation starter to tell others what else Indy has to offer and, moreover, gives Indy residents an open door to invite international visitors.

The ethos of Indy is racing. The technology of racing. The manufacturing of racing.  The sponsorship of racing. The professional sport of racing.

I grew up being able to hear the intoxicating sound of the famed cars from my backyard.  Hearing and seeing the cars still gives me chills.  This is more than a race.  This is more than an event.  It’s part of our DNA. It’s inherently part of our culture.  It’s multigenerational.  It’s about rich traditions.

Indy now welcomes 28 million visitors to Indy each year, with 11 percent arriving internationally.   

When we travel the globe as Indy ambassadors, let’s continue to be proud of where we call home and the race that has put us on the map. Let’s continue to invite and welcome the world to Indy each May and year round.

By Chris Gahl, Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Visit Indy