EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Investing in tourism makes dollars and sense

2013-07-21T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Investing in tourism makes dollars and senseBy Jim Garrett nwitimes.com
July 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

What economic engine could you activate in your community with a $6 return per $1 investment and in the meantime create something local residents also would enjoy? Invest in tourism.

Communities all over Illinois have found ways to increase visitor traffic and economic development through tourism. The state of Illinois reported more than 99 million domestic travelers visited the state in 2012 and generated nearly $31 billion in revenue. For the sake of comparison, that is slightly more than the gross national product of Panama. That’s still without adding in revenues generated by international visitors, which the state is still compiling.

The Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau works in concert with the state’s office of tourism to sell Illinois as a destination. The Chicago Southland CVB’s own sales and marketing team work beyond that to help bring in a variety of business, from leisure visitors to corporate meetings and conferences, military and family reunions and sports events.

Tourism is continuing to grow in the Chicago Southland and is making fundamental contributions to the region’s economic growth, tax revenue and job creation. In the past 12 months, the CVB has brought in more than 38,500 attendees who generated over $10.2 million in estimated economic impact for the Chicago Southland.

Because we are always trying to raise the bar and keep moving forward, we commissioned an independent visitors conversion study that assessed the marketing materials created by the CVB and helped develop a leisure visitor profile. The average visitor traveled by car to the region, staying about 1.93 nights in a hotel, and spent more than $900 during their trip.

According to our study, these leisure visitors were here to shop at our wide variety of stores, dine at fine restaurants and see some of the great sights in the Chicago Southland. They most often visited the Brookfield Zoo in Brookfield, Orland Square Mall in Orland Park and The Children’s Museum in Oak Lawn.

As we continue to strengthen the Chicago Southland brand as a fun, accessible and affordable destination, being described most often as “fun and exciting” and “friendly and welcoming” is a great start.

The CVB is continuing to work within its five-year strategic plan and investing in aggressive marketing efforts to attract more visitors, enhance the image of the destination and expanding partnerships throughout the region.

As we work with municipalities and private developers to create the next destination driver for the Chicago Southland, we are always thankful there are others who agree that investing in tourism just doesn’t make sense; it makes dollars and cents for our local communities.

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

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