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posted: 9/12/2019 1:00 AM

DuPage Coalition ready to bet on a big change for tourism

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  • Beth Marchetti

    Beth Marchetti

  • Mike Feigenbaum

    Mike Feigenbaum

Submitted by the DuPage Coalition for Tourism

Leaders of the DuPage Coalition for Tourism, a group of municipal, hotel and business leaders formed this past April, want the county's 38 communities to know that the DuPage tourism sector of the economy delivers billions in state and local tax revenue and supports more than 23,500 jobs. Yet, all of this is in jeopardy if an initiative to secure increased investment does not move forward.

The hospitality industry, including meetings, conventions and sporting events, is one of the fastest growing industries in the country, and competition is fierce, particularly from Chicago, its metro area and other regional destinations such as St. Louis and Indianapolis.

Coalition leaders, along with DuPage's tourism champion Beth Marchetti, executive director of the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau, have been working to educate industry partners and municipal leaders about their vision for the future of DuPage's tourism industry. Their objective is to gain county-wide support for tourism growth and prosperity.

Data provided by coalition leaders demonstrate that DuPage is losing market share, a key industry barometer, and one that can be reversed with increased investment. They claim that without robust promotional efforts, visitors, meetings and sporting events will continue to choose destinations and venues that are better promoted. They point to Chicago as a strong competitor with over 8,000 new hotel rooms and a dedicated incentive fund derived from airport departure taxes.

The "650 Challenge," named in reference to the coalition's goal to secure an additional $650 million in visitor spending by 2025 by securing more meetings, conventions and sporting events, will officially be introduced during the DuPage CVB's Annual Meeting on Thursday, Sept. 19. Visitor spending in DuPage for 2018 was $2.7 billion. The increased dollars, to be derived from a proposed minimal hotel assessment and reinvested in tourism promotion and marketing, is anticipated to increase revenue for the entire DuPage community, including its restaurants, hotels, attractions and retail.

Marchetti notes that the increased investment in tourism will enable the DuPage CVB to further promote its brand, "DuMore DuPage," making it more recognizable, much like "Pure Michigan."

"The DuPage CVB continues to develop new initiatives that are critical to the growth and prosperity of DuPage's visitor industry," said Marchetti. "Through the impact of travel, the DuPage CVB helps strengthen the county by creating economic, cultural and personal opportunities for its residents and businesses. Our efforts these last few years have been focused on doing more. What we do is tied to the tourism sector of economic development, and what we do at any given point and time is purely for the future of DuPage and the collective quality of place."

While the initiative has created opposition from a handful of businesses and chambers, stating they already impose their own tourism-related fees, Coalition leaders and Marchetti believe now is the time to grow for future success. Leaders of the coalition hope that entities will accept their invitation to deliver a brief presentation about the initiative before they publicly oppose it citing "everyone benefits."

"The goals of the coalition are realistic and achievable -- and significant for the DuPage economy, our communities, 110+ hotels, and the many businesses that directly - and indirectly - thrive due to a healthy tourism industry," said Mike Feigenbaum, general manager of The Westin Chicago Lombard and Coalition member. "Other destinations -- local and regional -- are maximizing the benefits of the tourism industry, investing significant resources to generate greater visitation. Why should DuPage be any different? When tourism thrives, so does business."

The new tourism plan includes an enhanced promotional program that targets new audiences regionally and nationally, and a strategy to secure larger and high-quality meetings and conferences. Earlier this year the DuPage Sports Commission was launched to capitalize on one of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry.

"DuPage has a solid foundation of sports events that generate visitation and economic impact for communities throughout DuPage," said Marchetti. "Investing in sports tourism is an opportunity to further build upon the already significant legacy of sports in DuPage. With the continued growth in amateur sports, the significant investments in new facilities, including the FMC Natatorium at Ty Warner Park in Westmont and the soccer fields in Oak Brook, we are on the right path to continue this legacy."

The coalition expects to introduce new tactics as part of its outreach campaign to all stakeholders before the end of this month.