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Ways Your Local Convention and Visitors Bureau Can Assist in Promoting Tourism

By Dave Parulo, President, Meet Chicago Northwest

At their core, local Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs) are drivers of economic impact through direct marketing and selling of their destinations as well as information service providers to visitors. However, CVBs offer opportunities to bring additional benefits to their communities such as leading, collaborating, choreographing, education, development and advocacy.
 
A State and Local Collaboration

As a starting point of collaboration, Illinois enjoys a vibrant network between the Illinois Office of Tourism (IOT) and 40 local certified CVBs. Certified CVBs are recognized by IOT as exclusively eligible to apply for certain grant funds and undergo compliance monitoring visits.

IOT administers grant programs to support local, national and international marketing and advertising efforts led by certified CVBs and matches local community investments in tourism. It is important to note that local CVBs often assist the local communities to apply for tourism grant funds, when available, for special projects.

IOT manages industry efforts to promote Illinois as a premier travel destination for leisure travelers and for meetings, conventions, and special events, attracting domestic and international visitors. Local certified CVBs partner with IOT throughout the state to advertise Illinois’ assets and to promote our strengths at tradeshows and events.

Local CVBs also can leverage state tourism promotion efforts to turn the spotlight on local attractions or events. For example, Illinois Made is one program that promotes local craft destinations throughout Illinois broadly via storytelling and in conjunction with the “Illinois – Are You Up For Amazing” campaign. Visit www.enjoyillinois.com for the experience.
 
Economic Impact of Tourism in Illinois

Tourism is big business in Illinois! The importance and impact of travel to Illinois continues to grow, supporting jobs and adding revenue both to the state of Illinois and to our local communities.

In 2015, more than 111.1 million visitors enjoyed Illinois and spent nearly $37.3 billion. These expenditures supported more than 316,860 Illinois jobs and generated $258 million Hotel-Motel Tax revenue in Fiscal Year 2016.

And speaking of jobs, tourism is the seventh largest job provider in the United States private sector with one out of nine jobs dependent on travel and tourism.

An added benefit is that tourism expenditures save the average Illinois household $1,300 in taxes each year. Source: Illinois Office of Tourism & U.S. Travel Association
 
Driving for a Deeper Economic Impact

An omnipresent goal for CVBs, beyond getting a visitor into the market, is the focus on maximizing the economic impact from their visit. CVBs employ some obvious tactics to educate and inform the visitor of things to do and see such as visitor guides, front desk maps and digital information.
However, bureaus eagerly and actively collaborate with local businesses and event planners to serve both parties’ needs. For example, during high attendance festivals, custom tailored wayfaring signage and geo-fencing technology can push attendees to find additional dining and entertainment options.

Another example is organization of dining events such as Chicago Northwest’s Restaurant Week, which promoted 40 restaurants and garnered more than 10,000 diners in February 2017. An example of choreographing with multiple volunteers to bring a street festival to reality is Visit Rockford’s efforts with Stroll on State, which has grown to 75,000 attendees in 2016. www.gorockford.com/stroll-on-state.
 
Local CVBs also look for common areas to lead customers through their shared regions. Our best known example is the Route 66 corridor, which coordinates cross promotion from Chicago to the Missouri border. But other examples abound such as bike trails, wine trails and the Great Rivers Road running along Illinois’ western border.

Bureaus stand ready to assist in a moment’s notice, and even a 2 minute 38 second event can bring huge dividends. Over 100,000 people are expected in Williamson County on August 21 for the total eclipse of the sun. With visitors coming from Switzerland, Japan, France and China, the Southern Illinois CVB has mobilized with several communities to welcome the crowds. Source: VisitSI http://www.visitsi.com/eclipseevents
 
Collaboration for Destination Development

Guests come to Illinois communities for many reasons from attending professional conferences, corporate travel, youth-sports weekends or to just have a weekend away at a really nice hotel. These folks add to our local economy as they dine, sleep, shop and buy gas for their ride home.

Local CVBs stand as experts to assist their communities in understanding not only the wants and needs of the visitor, but also the destination development opportunities to gain additional visitors to add to economic impact. This insight is gained from active interaction with both customers considering bringing events to the destination or visitors casually chatting with CVB staff at visitor centers.

An added opportunity for communities is the access to complimentary research and benchmarking which CVBs can offer from both professional industry associations and networking connections with destination professionals in different markets around the country. CVBs also have close contact with experts who specialize in Main Street projects and destination assessments.

Not to be forgotten is the image of public art in our destinations. Your local bureau has relationships with art councils and great information on public and pop-up art success stories from multiple cities and communities.
 
An Advocate’s Voice

Illinois CVBs are also poised to assist communities to advocate for tourism and development issues. Executive Directors and Boards of CVBs are connected locally with varied constituent leaders and also with legislative leaders in Springfield. The Illinois Council of Convention and Visitor Bureaus, the state association for Illinois CVBs, is very active in advocacy for continued funding of Illinois tourism at the state and grassroots levels as well as issues regarding local impact to tourism and infrastructure.
 
Economic Development starts with a Visit

As a closing thought, please consider that all economic development starts with one visit. There is a circle of life from tourism supporting economic development that turns back to supporting additional tourism.
 
DESTINATION DEVELOPMENT‘S – CIRCLE OF LIFE
Build a place people want to visit, and you’ll build a place where people want to live.
Build a place where people want to live, and you’ll build a place where people want to work.
Build a place where people want to work, and you’ll build a place where business has to be.
Build a place where business has to be, and you’ll build a place where people have to visit.
Source: Maura Gast, Visit Irving, TX
 

Dave Parulo is President of Meet Chicago Northwest, the official CVB serving eight vibrant Chicago Northwest communities. Contact Dave at dparulo@chicagonorthwest.com or (847) 490-1010. www.ChicagoNorthwest.com.