Visit McHenry County aims to entice tech-savvy visitors
From coordinating blogger tours to placing a powerful itinerary-builder at visitors' fingertips, Visit McHenry County is meeting increasingly tech-savvy consumers where they live -- on their digital devices.
In October, Visit McHenry County Executive Director Jaki Berggren and Sales and Marketing Manager Kristine Austin brought a group of five bloggers on a three-day tour of some of McHenry County's top places to dine, stay, play and shop.
Cadry Nelson, Sierra Holmes, Ashley Rhoades, Laura VanZandt and Theresa Goodrich stayed at the "Groundhog Day"-famous Cherry Tree Inn B&B in Woodstock; dined at 1776, Duke's Alehouse & Kitchen and Julie Ann's Frozen Custard in Crystal Lake; and made soaps with Valerie Deegan-Johnson of Jackass Charm Corner Store in Woodstock.
They enjoyed a sign-making party at Hands to Home Crafted in McHenry, where they also viewed the fire globes along the Riverwalk; performed aerial yoga with Jessi Rae at Pilates Body by Kirsten in Crystal Lake; sipped hand-blended teas at Casting Whimsy in Woodstock; and enjoyed shopping excursions in downtown Crystal Lake as well as Woodstock.
"We bring together a couple of these a year," Austin said of the tour, which also included photographer Kelsey Adams of McHenry and videographer Anni Poppen of Crystal Lake. "I create the experience together with our partners and other small local businesses and share the opportunity with the Midwest Travel Network."
Author candidates then pitch their skills and send links to their work. Austin picks the participants, who enjoy McHenry County and use their experiences to enlighten their readers about what McHenry County has to offer.
"One of my goals for my site, Cadry's Kitchen, is to show that veganism is doable everywhere, not just in vegan meccas like New York City and Los Angeles," said vegan blogger Nelson, who traveled from Iowa City to participate in the Oct. 11-13 tour. "A lot of my readers are from the Midwest.
"They're looking for trips that are an easy drive, where there are vegan menu items worthy of a road trip, and other fun things to do once they get there. I'd never been to McHenry County before this trip. It put the area on my radar."
Austin said the blogger tour results are well worth the effort.
"It's a way for other people to tell our story," she said. "It's always nice, especially for a visitor, to hear what other people have to say. It's like having a friend give you a suggestion."
Added Berggren: "The opportunity to showcase our area and show others why we love McHenry County is one way to create ambassadors for our little part of the world."
The writers' blogs can be found at cadryskitchen.com, eclectickurves.com, ashleymorganstyle.com, bitesizedbeet.com and thelocaltourist.com.
In addition to the recently completed tour, Visit McHenry County launched this month a new Visit McHenry County IL app available for Apple and Android.
The app offers pre-set itineraries, including one for the 32nd annual Autumn Drive, a McHenry County MADE tour featuring the wares of local makers, and a Sunday Shopping on the Square Tour.
The app also features event listings and dining options as well as places to stay, explore and shop.
Users also can easily put together their own itineraries by selecting events, locations and dining spots they're interested in seeing. Business owners or event organizers who think their locales or festivities would be a good fit for featuring on the app may contact Austin at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Not only can those from outside the area benefit from our new planning tool on our website and as an app," Berggren said. "It is now easier than ever for local residents to put together fun outings with their family and friends."