DuPage County event explores changes in tourism landscape

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WHEATON – The competitive landscape is shifting as DuPage County competes for all-important tourism and convention dollars.

That was the central message Sept. 27 at the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual Meeting Breakfast and Panel Discussion at Cantigny Park in Wheaton.

A large group of business leaders and elected officials from throughout the county gathered for the panel discussion, which featured Michael Jacobsen, president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association; Mitch Nichols of Nichols Tourism Group; and Ted Mandigo of Ted Mandigo & Co., a hotel consulting firm.

The county is competing on numerous levels for tourism and convention business, panelists said.

While the county routinely vies with Chicago for hotel and convention business, it also faces competition on the regional and national level as other midsize cities are doing more to attract visitors.

“These guys are upping their game,” Nichols said.

He said Indianapolis is one example of a midsize Midwestern city that has taken significant steps to become a travel and convention destination.

The capital of Indiana has become a theater and arts destination that also has linked health and wellness to its branding message, Nichols said.

Remaining competitive in the tourism game requires an investment and an understanding of what potential visitors are seeking in a destination, he said.

"Come to the challenge with the visitor's hat on," Nichols said.

Mandigo agreed.

"It's not where to stay, it's what to do when you stay there," Mandigo said. "We're selling experience, not price."

Jacobsen said Indianapolis is not the only Midwestern city that is fighting hard for the tourism dollar.

"The Midwest is on fire if you look at the mid-tier market," he said.

Jacobsen added marketing the county must not be limited to those who work in the travel and tourism business.

"Talking to the broader public is key," he said.

The morning ended with the presentation of the Friends of Tourism Awards to DuPage County Board member Tonia Khouri and former state Rep. Patti Bellock.