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Armstrong: Tourism season ready to take off

Published: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 8:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, April 29, 2014 8:34 a.m. CST

The DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau has just sent in its third quarter marketing report to the Illinois Office of Tourism. From January to March, we had 6,492 unique visitors explore our website and we distributed a total of 25,000 rack cards and visitors guides through our paid partnerships that include 90 visitor information kiosks.

We are now coming into the height of tourism season which kicks off Saturday through May 11, during National Tourism week. We will celebrate by welcoming approximately 5,000 visitors to the area for the Illinois Junior Academy of Science Competition.

More than 200 schools will send teams to this elite competition, which will take place Friday and Saturday at the Northern Illinois University Convocation Center. The DCCVB will provide custom itineraries and visitors guides so they can explore the area when they have free time.

National Tourism week recognizes the “travel effect” that tourism spending generates. Tourism is an economic engine that generates jobs and dollars for the local economy. An investment in tourism marketing returns $6 for every $1 spent.

Earlier this month, the city of Chicago and Illinois Office of Tourism hosted International  Pow Wow at McCormick Center. About 1,200 international travel buyers booked appointments with travel professionals to explore destinations for clients. It is estimated that this trade show will generate more than $4 billion.

Many of the attendees stayed on after the show to attend familiarization tours hosted by state and other tourism organizations. DeKalb County isn’t considered a top tier international destination. However, Doug Dasher usually hosts 50 to 60 international groups that request farm tours each year. The entire state benefits from trade shows like this because the Illinois Office of Tourism is involved and promoting all our destinations.

We are getting ready to welcome 2,300 bike riders June 21 and 22 for MS: Tour de Farms. More than 400 hotel rooms are usually booked for the event. You can volunteer to ride to raise money or to help with road crews for the bikers at: www.nationalmssociety.org. This group generates more than $400,000 for the local economy based on the numbers their organization provided.  

The DCCVB has started reaching out to sponsors for the 2014 DeKalb Kite Fest, which will be held Sept. 14. This year we have secured “Jumpy Jumpers” as a new sponsor. They will be out at the field to provide additional free entertainment for the children. To become a sponsor, call 815-756-1336 or send email to darmstrong@dekalbcountycvb.com.

The DCCVB also is actively working to find and book both day and overnight tour groups. The office is contacting two to three tour group operators on a weekly basis. Normally these groups are making plans a year in advance of their visit, which means they are working on tours for 2015 and in some cases 2016. These tours can generate $2,000 to $4,000 for the local economy.

Remember to help us promote and keep updated on all tourism events by submitting them to our website. Go to the calendar of events menu and click on “Submit an Event.” This service is provided free of charge. The Calendar of Events gets an average of 400 to 500 unique visits a month.

Until next time, safe travels.

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

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