Tourism in DeKalb County


As summer turns into fall all eyes are on events and activities that bring people into DeKalb County. The DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been the focal point when promoting the area. The DCCVB was created to promote events, activities and DeKalb County as a destination. It is part of a statewide coalition to promote both interests in the state as well as to support efforts to generate economic growth within the various regions.

Until this past March, the DCCVB was under the leadership of Debbie Armstrong. Armstrong retired and the administrative assistant Erin Reynolds became the interim Executive Director while the local Board of Directors looked for a new Executive Director. Not finding a suitable candidate over the last five months became even more of a challenge for the Executive Board when Reynolds resigned to take a similar role with the Sycamore Chamber of Commerce.

Because of the pending events (Kite Fest and the ISHA Football Championship), the DCCVB Board found a temporary interim Executive Director until a full-time Director can be appointed. The Board of Directors selected Bonnie Wilkinson Heinbach, the former Executive Director and CEO of Northern Illinois Tourism.

“The DCCVB is excited to have someone of Bonnie talents to assist with our transition,” said Bradley Hoey, Chairman of the DCCVB board. “She brings a wealth of knowledge to our organization which she was instrumental in helping us get started.”

Tourism plays a strong role in economic growth throughout the state. Working together with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism, ICCVB enable local members like the DCCVB members to be more effective and efficient in attracting visitors to their communities. The Council provides educational opportunities that raise the level of professionalism in the travel industry, and it provides a forum for networking and cooperative action between the members. The organization also maintains a proactive legislative and advocacy effort on issues that affect tourism and business travel in Illinois through its Advocacy and Legislative Affairs Committee.

The DeKalb area has seen modest growth in tourism revenue over the last couple of years. The change from 2017 to 2018 showed an increase of 1.5% revenue. “It is difficult to show ROI (return on investment) on many tourism events and activities,” said local tourism professional Michael Embrey. Embrey serves on the Board of Directors for the Dekalb County CVB as well as serving as Vice President of Tour Colorado and Chicago SKAL Tourism Board of Directors. “It is easy to see increases in revenue when major events come to DeKalb County, like Corn Fest, Sandwich Fair, and events at NIU,’ says Embrey. “Smaller events like Creston Days, Cortland Fest, Sycamore Rib Fest, Music at the Mansion and Malta Days are hard events to track and show economic impact. New events like the Corn Race and Balloons, Brews & Blues are the future of many communities throughout the State of Illinois.”

“I am very pleased that Bonnie Heinbach will be assisting the DeKalb County tourism efforts,” said Embrey. “Bonnie and I have been tourism friends for over 25 years and she is the quintessential tour and travel professional.” Heinbach is also the former Project Director for the Illinois Lincoln Highway Coalition and one of the first sponsors of DeKalb Kishwaukee Fest Parades.

The DCCVB is faced with many challenges in the coming months. They need to find a full-time Executive Director, a new administrative assistant, and a new location.  The CVB, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce and the DeKalb Area Agricultural Heritage Association, will soon be leaving their current locations and seeking new space.

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