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Armstrong: Partnership and promotion prove power of tourism

The DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau and board are thankful for another successful year of promoting DeKalb County that paid off in a big way. Tourism generated $98.8 million for our local economy from visitor spending here in DeKalb County and we helped make that happen.

We are grateful for the tourism partners we work with to help generate that kind of income for DeKalb County. Those business owners are the faces and personalities that represent all of us when visitors come to our area. They also generate local and state taxes for our area and create jobs, which is critical for a healthy economy. We salute all their hard work. It is both an honor and pleasure to promote and partner with them to promote our area. The objective is to generate economic impact. Enjoying it is a bonus!

Our promotion has helped them grow and make a significant economic impact for the state of Illinois as well. Our success has helped us increase the state matching grant dollars that the bureau has to promote DeKalb County. Our grant is at the highest it has ever been. That has come from a combination of many things, two of which are local investment with the bureau as the designated destination marketing organization for DeKalb County and the exceptional growth in visitor spending for the last eight years.

Erin Reynolds joined our bureau as our sales coordinator in mid-August. Erin lives in Sycamore and has first-hand knowledge of our area that she is eager to share and promote. Welcome, Erin!

Erin’s first project was to reach out to all our county municipal partners and tourism partners to gather updated information to promote our area for the new 2019 DeKalb County Visitor Guide. It is the premier promotional tool we use to draw visitors and event planners to our area. Many of our local partners take advantage of using our guide as a recruitment tool to attract employees and businesses to our area. Tourism is the front door to economic development.

The new visitor guide will be available in January. We will be notifying all our partners and distributing them through the paid partnerships the bureau has along with nine tourist information centers that are made available to our bureau as the destination marketing organization and liaison with the Illinois Office of Tourism. We are keeping DeKalb County visible and drawing more visitors here to keep our local economy and businesses thriving.

One of Erin’s responsibilities will be to promote DeKalb County venues and attractions at trade shows. Together, we will continue to cultivate relationships to have an even bigger economic impact from visitor spending. We will focus on developing relationships with tour group operators as part of our strategic plan. Tour group operators often plan 6 to 18 months in advance. It takes time to develop these relationships. These operators look to convention and visitor bureaus to assist with planning and expert knowledge of the area. On average, a group day visit will generate $1,800 for local businesses. An overnight tour with 50 visitors can generate as much as $3,500 or more for our businesses.

It will take time and hard work to cultivate the group tour market. The return on investment will be well worth it, in order to keep growing the kind of economic impact we have helped deliver to our businesses and municipalities. Local partners need to be stakeholders with our bureau to support the work we do to promote DeKalb County as a premiere destination for leisure and business travelers. We need resources to deliver results.

Our board and staff want to thank all of our annual stakeholders for their investments, which have enabled us to be so successful with our promotional efforts.

There is much more that could be done with additional resources. The return on investment from visitor spending is one of most lucrative investments that municipalities and private businesses can make. For every $1 invested in promotion, $9 is returned.

We encourage everyone to visit our website at to view our annual report and annual presentation for FY18 to gain deeper insight into our promotion efforts and the economic impact we help to generate for DeKalb County.

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

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