This is Visit Indiana Week, a week to kick-off the summer travel season and celebrate all that Indiana offers. We have a wonderfully diverse state from our dunes in the north to our lovely river communities along the Ohio. And of course our capital city . . . that beautifully reinvented urban destination.

The Indiana Office of Tourism Development (IOTD) works with community partners across our state to boost Indiana's economy through travel-related initiatives. Our agency is dedicated to enhancing the economic vitality of Indiana by providing leadership and resource support to the Indiana travel industry. As the third largest contributor to Indiana's economy, travel, tourism and hospitality businesses support nearly 200,000 Hoosier jobs, drive $10 billion in consumer spending and serve 63 million travelers on an annual basis. The chief beneficiaries of this economic impact are the family-owned and small businesses that are the backbone of Indiana.

Indiana's tourism economy is driven by its agriculture, culinary, outdoor recreation, sports, heritage and cultural capacity. They're the signature experiences of our state that Hoosiers identify with and visitors to Indiana seek. Our upcoming bicentennial will give Hoosiers the chance to celebrate our history and culture in an unprecedented way. This celebration, which takes place in 2016 will connect our people, communities and regions like never before. The tourism momentum created by the bicentennial will carry on in future years as Hoosiers become reacquainted with the richness of our heritage and leisure opportunities.

In recent years, there have been great improvements to Indiana's roadway system. Indiana has added miles and miles of new and resurfaced roads, making it easier and safer for travelers to visit all corners of our state. I-69 and US 31 are burgeoning tourism corridors and just two of the dozens of transportation projects that will have a positive impact on the tourism industry.

All roads point to Indiana. In fact, from where I sit, I can say with confidence that Indiana is in the middle of everywhere.

As I travel the back roads of our state, I am taken by the rural communities I visit and the heartwarming appeal of the people and pace I encounter. Indiana is indeed a very special place. So, as we enter the summer travel season, I want to encourage you to get in your cars, drive our roadways and explore all that Indiana has to offer. I promise you won't be disappointed by what you discover.

Mark Newman is executive director of the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.