Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is a Convention & Visitors Bureau?
As I sit back and read the compilation of articles that has been written about the Kankakee County CVB, I can’t do anything but smile.  I know that we are on target when it comes to marketing Kankakee County to visitors and the Chicago Bears fans.  If you don’t see all our efforts locally, then you must know that we are carrying out our mission as a destination marketing organization.   Let’s set the language straight.  We are not here to promote the Chicago Bears but we are here to promote Kankakee County to the Chicago Bears Fans 50 miles outside of our county.  The Chicago Bears is a brand and wherever they are present, their fans will follow.  Marketing experts call it “The Brand Mindset.” This means that once an organization is branded, then it is able to acquire a loyal following (such as the case for…).   
Kankakee County has three organizations that are charged to brand our county for people desiring to live, work, invest and visit Kankakee County.   The Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Economic Alliance of Kankakee County and the Kankakee County Chamber of commerce are three organizations that contribute to the economic health of our community.  These three organizations contribute to the economic health of our community, and they all have three very different mission statements.

Kankakee County Convention & Visitors Bureau

Mission Statement: The Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau create vibrant growth for the local economy by promoting Kankakee County as an overnight destination, increasing visitor awareness and developing a united tourism industry.  
Funding: 501c6 we are funded by a 4% visitor bed tax (Each time a visitor stays in one of our hotels the CVB receives a 4 % tax that is used to market and attract more outside visitors to the county) and an Illinois state matching grant.  Our fiscal year starts July 2012 and ends June 2013 

Program of work: create visitor business for the communities served by promoting its attractions, restaurants and tourism related features to visitors living 50 miles outside our county boarders.  This includes producing publications, promotional materials that are marketed and distributed throughout the mid-west region.   Our goal is to attract visitors who will stay overnight, eat at our restaurants and enjoy all the things to do and see while visiting our area. 

Economic Alliance of Kankakee County:
Mission: The Economic Alliance of Kankakee County is a public/private partnership tasked solely with retaining industry in and recruiting industry to Kankakee County, Illinois.  

Program of work: Create job opportunities, retain and recruit new businesses, transportation, 2020 Vision Branding, Enterprise U, River-Round table.

Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce:
Mission: The Kankakee County Chamber of Commerce facilitates the growth of our business community through collaboration, advocacy, and economic development.  

Program of work: · Developing marketing strategies, advertising and activities which promote area businesses, referring potential clients to investors, marketing the area to encourage and attract new business leaders, partnering with the city, county, and schools to identify and address problems and find solutions. 

The Kankakee County Convention & Visitors is funded by a 4% visitor tax and a grant awarded by the state of Illinois.  In order to continue receiving state funding, we have to comply with state regulations and be fiscally responsible. We are solely a destination marketing organization and all our activities should encourage visitors to stay overnight and experience all that Kankakee County has to offer.  To request for one of our publications or sign up for our electronic newsletter, please visit our website at  

How has the Kankakee County CVB marketing efforts impacted tourism for Kankakee County? 
The state of Illinois issued these numbers for 2011.  Numbers for Kankakee County’s domestic travel are up from 2010.  The following numbers were reported by the Illinois Bureau of Tourism.  Expenditures indicate how much visitors spent in 2010 and 2011.  Visitors spending increased by 6.3% in 2011 compared to a 0.42% in 2010.  State tax receipts increased by 13.5% compared to the previous 0.48% and Local tax receipts increased by 3.2% compared to 0.47%.  Due to the use of volunteers, who operate many of our historical and cultural tourism activities, Payroll and Employment remains in the negative.

                                                            2010                                                                                 2011

Expenditures                                     0.42%                                                                               6.3%
Payroll                                                0.31%                                                                               -0.1%
Employment                                     0.36%                                                                               -1.9%
State Tax Receipts                           0.48%                                                                               13.5%
Local Tax Receipts                          0.47%                                                                               3.2% 

Because we spend a large portion of our marketing dollars promoting Kankakee County to outside visitors, you won’t see all the results of our advertising and marketing locally.  Kankakee County CVB strives to support our local community by marketing our local attractions and features to visitors who spend dollars while experiencing Kankakee County. 

“Hotels are not the only businesses that benefit from a vibrant tourism industry”.

                                                                                                                        Bill Geist, President
                                                                                                                        Zeitgeist Consulting


How does the Kankakee County CVB market the county to outside visitors?

·        We produce 30 to 40,000 official visitors’ guides that are distributed throughout the mid-west, targeting Illinois and Indiana Travel Information Centers.  We fulfill requests from visitors either via email, phone, website or walk-ins.  We also supply visitors with about the area.
·        We produce promotional inserts promoting major attractions and features such as, (Chicago Bears Training Camp, Festivals, Museums and leisure activities) to include in newspapers distributing their publications throughout the Midwest and northern region of Illinois.  (Chicago Southtown Star, Chicago Sun-times, Chicago Defender).
·        We advertise and promote our meeting and sporting venues to potential event planners to include our local Hotels, Park Districts, Hidden Cove and other meeting and event facilities in industry publications such as, (Sports Event Magazine, Sports Destination Magazine, Midwest Meetings and Illinois Meetings & Events). 
·        We partnership with the Illinois Bureau of Tourism to advertise and market regionally in publications such as (Chicago & Beyond and we post Kankakee County attractions and events on our states’ Enjoy Illinois website).
·        Our organization travels to conferences and trade shows to sell Kankakee County as a meetings and event destination.  We encourage local associations to bring their state and regional meetings home to Kankakee County.  This brings visitors to our area to shop, dine and stay.
·        We are mentioned, listed and sometimes featured in Illinois’ national and international campaigns reaching out to International travelers visiting the Midwest region.
·        We have cutting edge software and technology that can measure the success of your organization’s attraction, tourism related business or event.  Your organization supplies the numbers and we add the formula.  We work hard at measuring the success of our organization and we want to assist organizations in measuring theirs. 

What can the CVB do for its local residents?
·        If you are planning a meeting i.e. (religious or corporate, regional or district), family reunion, class reunion, or bringing home a regional sports tournament, we can provide free visitor information welcoming your guest to Kankakee County.  This service is provided for visitors staying overnight.
·        Provide information on restaurants, lodging, events, attractions and other activities
·        Receive competitive hotel rates by contacting the CVB for free hotel booking assistance and venue site selection.
·        We can assist in coordinating group tour activities. 
·        Assistance with developing and attracting special events to Kankakee County. 

So if you are not aware of what we do for our community, it’s simply because we are in the business of attracting visitors who travel from outside to experience what’s on the inside of Kankakee County.  If you are traveling north/south bound I-57 Illinois or east/west bound I-65 Indiana, stop at one of our Travel Information Centers and ask for tourist information about Kankakee County.  Local residents can pick up visitor information at our PNC Bank location, downtown Kankakee.  We are located on the ground floor.

We are presently working with our Community River Round table, promoting the Kankakee River and developing an Interstate 57 signage program.  We support the French Heritage Museum, Regatta, Acting Out, Kankakee Valley Symphony Orchestra, Merchant Street Musicfest, Agri-tourism, Momence Main Street, Wright in Kankakee, Herscher Labor Day Celebration, Bennett Curtis House, Community Arts Council, Park Districts, and other tourism related businesses and events.  We support our local arts and cultural community by joining their membership programs and assisting with developing promotional and marketing material.  We are working with alternative meeting venues to attract government, corporate and association meetings to our area. 

How can the CVB partner with the community to create a united tourism industry?
In order for us to create a united industry, our community needs volunteers.  We need community residents, who can share in telling our story to visitors traveling throughout Kankakee County.  Volunteers are also needed to assist with extending our front line marketing efforts.  Tour guides are needed to assist with tours of the Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Kankakee County Museum, the French Canadian Museum, the Barn Quilt Tours, and other attractions.  Volunteers are needed to help plan, promote, set-up and collect data, for Special Events.  Our local art, historical and cultural organizations such as the Community Arts Council of Kankakee County, Momence Main Street, WKCC public radio, among others need volunteers to help carry out their missions.   

The CVB, private, corporate, non-profits, not-for Profits and other local businesses should continue supporting tourism by sponsoring local attractions and special events.  Private and corporate partners should consider investing in long-term plans to create tourism infrastructure.  Creating a home for the visual and performing arts, public art, expanding other existing museums and attractions, will increase awareness and attract more visitors to Kankakee County.  The CVB is here to market the best we have in Kankakee County.  

Partnerships are important.  If we want to promote the best we have in Kankakee County, then we all have to invest in our community.  Investing in a community doesn’t just lie on the shoulders of the three organizations previously mentioned, but it involves residents telling our story to visitors, business associates and friends.  We at the Kankakee County Convention & Visitors are here to increase awareness, attract visitors and create a united tourism industry.