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Armstrong: Looking at demographics from the Illinois Office of Tourism

Published: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 10:33 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, March 25, 2014 10:36 a.m. CST

Travel planning has shifted in recent years, with social media and mobile devices being used more often.

The top five states providing visitors to Illinois in 2012 were Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri and Michigan. The top five international markets for Illinois were Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, and China.

The average age of Illinois’s domestic leisure visitors was 45; most visitors were married with an average household income of $79,006.

The primary activities for leisure travelers to Illinois include: visiting friends and relatives; dining experiences; shopping; visiting a museum or art exhibit; and attending fine arts performances.

Jennifer Hoelzle, the Illinois Office of Tourism’s deputy director, said the state hosted a record 99 million domestic visitors in 2012 – a 6.1 percent increase over the previous year. The numbers for 2013 will be reported in July during the annual Illinois Travel Effect Road Show. Tourism professionals from around the state attend and Office of Tourism officials will release the economic impact that tourism spending generated for the state and individual service areas for all 102 counties in 2013.

Our partnership with the Office of Tourism is crucial because their destination marketing efforts bring visitors to Illinois. It’s our job to lead them to DeKalb County. When they get here, it’s up to the attractions, hotels, restaurants and businesses to add their individual marketing efforts to the mix.

Part of the Office of Tourism marketing strategy includes launching our first national TV advertising campaign, combined with print media, new web content, social media, and video.

Many of you are aware that “Mini Abe” is our state tourism icon because you’ve seen the Enjoy Illinois TV commercials and our clever videos showcasing his travel experiences as he visits attractions throughout the state. Both the commercials and new videos have boosted awareness for the state and our area.

The state provides local tourism professionals with research, facts and demographics that we use to stay on top of travel trends and create marketing plans that enable us to continue to generate economic wealth from travel spending. These tools helped us generate record-breaking revenue for the state and increase travel spending in all 102 counties in 2012.

DEKALB COUNTY VISITOR DEMOGRAPHICS AND MARKETING

Our analytic show that the top four searches for our website are: dining; calendar of events; attractions and museums; and wineries. That is in line with the research provided by the state.

From July 1 to March 17, we attracted 19,498 visitors to our website, an average of 2,400 a month. Of those, 82 percent were new visitors.

The bureau is also working with a local marketing firm to launch a responsive website.

A responsive web design enables visitors to use the type of social media or mobile device they prefer to research and plan their trips.

It’s important to make it easy for visitors to engage and explore our website.

Our marketing campaign mirrors that of the state, with the exception of TV and radio advertising because of budget constraints.

Last year we received more than 6,000 leads from a Spring/Summer Get A Way print ad guide that went out to the Chicago area with a circulation of more than 1 million. Many of these people requested a free visitor guide, and viewed our website and interactive brochure on vacationfun.com.

DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau’s Board of Directors and I would like to thank all of our financial stakeholders and in-kind sponsors for their continued investment in tourism promotion, which enables us to continue to generate revenue for DeKalb County.

Remember to shop and dine locally.

• Debbie Armstrong is executive director of the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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