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Our View: Tourism effort makes difference

Published: Wednesday, July 24, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

When it comes to attracting tourists, DeKalb County has some unique advantages compared to other counties of its size.

The area is home to Northern Illinois University, which boasts successful Division I athletic programs as well as the 10,000-seat Convocation Center and the 24,000-seat Huskie Stadium, both of which make excellent venues for sporting contests as well as many other events.

DeKalb County also is on the outskirts of major population centers, with 8 million people within an hour and 30 minutes’ drive of the DeKalb area. NIU also helps many people from that area become familiar with what the area has to offer by drawing them here as students.

What’s more, DeKalb County has a dedicated agency, the publicly funded DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, working to market the area and assist those who want to hold events here.

In 2012, as visitors bureau Executive Director Debbie Armstrong reported in Tuesday’s Daily Chronicle, tourism generated about $81.5 million for the local economy, a 3 percent increase over 2011.

Although it is good to see growth in tourist spending, it is also important that we continue working to create and promote more opportunities to attract outsiders to the area. That’s why events such as the inaugural Illinois High School Association state football championship games, which will be held Nov. 29-30 at Huskie Stadium, are important. That event will likely require a fair number of community volunteers to run smoothly, but through that effort, we can help generate what could be about $800,000 for our local economy.

You can learn more about the event online at ihsadestinationdekalb.com.

New events are only part of the equation, however. Our area also has well-known attractions, including Shabbona Lake State Park, the Sandwich Fair, Corn Fest and the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, that have been reliable draws for outsiders for years and should continue to be so.

According to recent information from the state, a visitor who spends a night in a hotel room in our area spends another $100 a day with local merchants. That’s money that is likely to stay in our community as those merchants pay employees, vendors and others who live in the area. It also generates tax revenue for local governments.

We support efforts to attract events and individual tourists to our area, and hope they continue to grow in success.

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