EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Chicago Southland hospitality efforts paying off

2013-09-29T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Chicago Southland hospitality efforts paying offBy Jim Garrett nwitimes.com
September 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The value of tourism in Illinois is over $1 billion of direct spending by the 100 million visitors this past year. The tourism industry added 6,700 jobs, with one in 10 jobs directly or indirectly related to tourism. Tourism means business for Illinois.

Tourism also means business for the Chicago Southland, and I’m happy to report the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau had a great year. Our sales team worked every opportunity, and it shows in the more than $10 million of estimated economic impact along with 7,973 room nights and 38,549 attendees generated for the Chicago Southland.

Our team achieved this through meeting face-to-face with event and meeting planners at 20 industry trade shows across 17 states. We also hosted 39 site inspections with 66 planners, operators and sports event organizers.

Meetings and events will continue to fill hotel rooms year-round. We’ve kept a close eye on the monthly measurements from Smith Travel Research, which gives us an indication on the health of our hotels and helps gauge our performance as a CVB. In the years we have been receiving these reports, we have never seen occupancy this high, at 61 percent for the fiscal year.

This is a testament to how hard our partner hotels and CVB have been working to put more heads in beds and more feet in the street. Although not record-breaking, the average daily rate and revenue per available room numbers are as high as we’ve seen in the last five years.

One of our biggest achievements this past year was the update of our five-year strategic plan. We continue to progress on our three goals: enhance the image of the destination, support destination-enhancing development and expand sales and marketing partnerships throughout the region.

Through our strategic plan, we also commissioned an independent conversion study that assessed our marketing materials and helped develop a leisure visitor profile. The conversion study was conducted by enRiched Consulting LLC, and we were able to walk away with several key facts.

 

  • 67 percent of the people who received our visitors guide traveled to the region, and 85 percent noted the guide had a positive influence on their decision to visit the Chicago Southland.
  • The average visitors were couples between the ages of 46-55 who most likely traveled to the region by car, stayed an average of 1.93 nights in a hotel and were traveling to visit family and friends.

Our marketing department has been busy this year growing the reach of our website and social media channels. We’ve added new components, pages and content to our site, which increased the site’s reach to nearly a quarter million visitors. Our website analytics indicate these visitors came from all 50 states and 160 countries, and 89.5 percent of the visitors to the site were from beyond the Chicago Southland.

The hospitality industry is strong in the Chicago Southland and getting stronger every day. The CVB continues to move forward every day to promote and sell our region as a visitor destination.

Jim Garrett is president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. The opinions are the writer's.

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