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updated: 6/13/2017 4:43 PM

Adventure Kit, Libation Trail highlight Lake County tourism campaign

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  • Bartender Amanda McDuffie pours a beer at Half Day Brewing Company in Lincolnshire. The establishment is among those tourism officials hope will draw visitors to Lake County.

      Bartender Amanda McDuffie pours a beer at Half Day Brewing Company in Lincolnshire. The establishment is among those tourism officials hope will draw visitors to Lake County.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer, 2016

 
 

When their summer campaign starts next week, Lake County tourism officials will roll out a new format emphasizing the range of experiences available to visitors.

Maureen Riedy, president of Visit Lake County, said the group is producing a seven-section Adventure Kit, highlighting everything from local dining spots to camping opportunities.

"This year, it's all about telling stories and building pictures in people's minds what they can do in Lake County," Riedy said Tuesday during an annual presentation to the Lake County Board.

The growth of locally sourced goods and services also will be in the spotlight, including creation of a "Libation Trail" of craft breweries, distilleries and wineries.

"The locally-made movement is so popular," Riedy said. "We've seen how popular craft brewing has gotten here, plus we have two distilleries."

Expanding restaurant week also is on the to-do list. Last year, 50 restaurants participated in the inaugural event.

Luring visitors is big business in Lake County, home to 10,530 tourism-related jobs. In 2015, visitors spent $1.28 billion in the county, according to state figures. That meant $28 million in local tax receipts and $72.4 million in state tax receipts, according to Riedy.

"We think of tourism as a big part of economic development here in Lake County," she told county the board.

The county supports Visit Lake County with about $95,000 annually from hotel/motel taxes collected in the unincorporated area.

Among the bureau's ongoing efforts is taking advantage of the county's 170 waterways, 23 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline and 154 miles of trails. Boating and water-related activities are promoted exclusively at a special website, boatinglakecounty.com.

They're also collaborating with Lake County Partners, the county's economic development agency, on initiatives to attract and retain young professionals. Part of that will involve promotions for arts and cultural events and agritourism businesses.

However, there are hurdles.

Key Lime Cove and its 500 hotel rooms closed in April as part of the indoor waterpark's conversion to Great Wolf Lodge, a project that won't be completed until mid-2018. Overall hotel occupancy rates have been flat, Riedy added.

State assistance -- the main source of tourism funding -- also is in question. By law, a portion of state hotel tax receipts goes into a special fund to be reinvested in tourism promotion, according to Riedy.

Visit Lake County applies annually for a state grant, which has to be appropriated by legislators as part of the budget approval process. For the year ending June 30, Visit Lake County received $1.2 million.

"We're waiting to see what happens this year and are hopeful," she said. "In order to continue to grow tax revenues for our communities and the state, it is important to have a consistent and stable funding mechanism so we can plan our marketing programs for the year."

@dhmickzawislak

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