Chicago-area CVBs united in attracting tourists

  • Beth Marchetti

    Beth Marchetti

By Beth Marchetti
DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau
Updated 5/21/2021 12:00 PM

Since the mid-1980s, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs) have been charged to attract visitors who spend significant tax dollars in the way of leisure travel, sports tournaments, events, corporate meetings, conferences/training and more ... a specialized form of economic development prized by cities big and small for the significant return on investment.

Like every destination and visitors bureau, DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau (DCVB) watched the pandemic take its toll, with waves of cancellations for meetings, events and hotel rooms. DuPage's $2.7 billion industry was decimated. The majority of our 24,000 hospitality workers were furloughed or permanently laid off. Office buildings were empty, and business lunches no longer reserved.


But our charter remained the same: Support local businesses and elevate our communities now and in the future. DCVB launched a slew of new and targeted programs, enhanced advocacy and communication, worked in partnership with health departments, and importantly kept people engaged in what they could do during this time -- becoming the intersection for mental health, re-imagined business models and economic recovery.

It was difficult at best to plan for the future with ever-changing information. It was this level playing field that sparked the need for Chicagoland to play a leading role for an economic recovery strategy. And DCVB embraced this opportunity.

Under the leadership of Chairman Dan Cronin and other Cook and collar-county board chairs, professionals from economic development, workforce development and tourism met in subgroups to devise plans for securing a "new normal." Facilitated by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning, tourism directors met to craft a tourism plan. Visitors do not know the borders of our communities, and they travel regionally by interest or for a particular purpose and then spread out to explore.

Destinations fight for your attention; Expedia, Travelocity and other websites have multimillion-dollar budgets, and I even call the other Illinois CVBs "friendly competitors." But we are just that, friendly, and no one knows our communities like we do and will fight with a fierce passion for our industry -- to rally and rebook any groups, visitors, events and new tourism developments that we can, collectively, with one voice, all while bringing billions of dollars to the state coffers and to our communities.

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As we launch our Visit Chicagoland campaign, surrounding states are sprinting to the proverbial finish line to persuade you to become their guests and spend your money with them. Illinois is abundant with hidden gems, ready to welcome you and is open for business. Now is the time.

How can you help? I encourage you to utilize as a regional travel platform to discover sites in your own backyard. Take photos and inspire others to visit, using #visitchicagoland. Your local businesses, hotels, restaurants, attractions, museums and more need your support. These businesses are your neighbors and the very fiber of the communities in which we live and serve.

As you look on the backs of your kids' soccer, baseball and other sports jerseys, ask yourself this: Who is the sponsor on that shirt? It is the local establishments in your backyard, so let's get down to the business of doing business. And let's get out and discover the many reasons why one million residents call DuPage County home.

We are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel. Families are coming to DuPage County for sports tournaments. People who have been separated for over a year are scheduling their family reunions.


Couples who have had to postpone weddings, sometimes two or three times, are rebooking with the CVB and our partner venues to finally celebrate. I encourage you all to continue to embrace the now and create experiences with those you love.

We are ready to welcome you ... and The Only Thing Missing is You.

• Beth Marchetti is executive director of the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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