The 2013 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism wrapped up on Friday, March 1, concluding a three-day gathering of over 450 travel industry professionals from throughout Illinois. During the annual State of the State of Tourism address, Jen Hoelzle, Illinois Office of Tourism Deputy Director, highlighted the latest travel promotions:
- Piggybacking on the success of the blockbuster "Lincoln" movie, an emphasis is placed on Illinois’ numerous Lincoln destinations.
- A revamped Enjoy Illinois web site, with enhanced visuals, debuted during the conference. A mobile version of the site will launch in the next few weeks.
- A new Mile Markers program was launched, featuring ambassadors who blog about Illinois destinations.
- A spring and summer international campaign, run in partnership with Brand USA, will highlight people behind destinations, like Bill Shea of Shea’s Gas Station Route 66 Museum in Springfield. Brand USA is the national organization that markets the United States as a premier travel destination in international markets.
The Illinois Excellence in Tourism awards dinner on the opening night of the conference took on the pageantry of the Academy Awards, from the red carpet, to emcee Laura Schwartz, television commentator and professional speaker, and award announcements. Awards were presented in 12 categories. Entries were judged by a panel of marketing and tourism professionals on clarity of message, creativity, originality and the project’s overall success. Winners included categories like Best of Show (Hiltons of Chicago) and Best Tourism Marketing Campaign (BMO Harris Bank Magnificent Mile Lights Festival in Division A and Champaign County as a Destination in Division B).
Added this year were the “Lincoln Awards,” honoring “behind the scenes stars” who go above and behind for the Illinois tourism industry. The winners were:
Best Supporting Actress: Lumi Bekteshi, Head waitress, The Palm’s Grill, Atlanta
Best Supporting Actor: Tazewell County Resource Centers, Travel Guide Fulfillment Center
Best Actor: Robert Minge, Tourist Information Center Travel Counselor, Cumberland Road
Best Actress: Mary Twomey, Director of Sales and Marketing for Chicago’s Essex Inn
Best Picture: Rick Nielsen, Rick’s Picks: A Lifelong Affair with Guitars & Music
Lifetime Achievement Award: Roger Carmack, Executive Director of Great Rivers Country
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