Monday, February 6, 2023

SYCAMORE – DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau received $15,000 in funding from the DeKalb County Board meant to help aid its plans to expand social media outreach and tout DeKalb County’s recreation opportunities.

Officials from the burueau presented updates to the DeKalb County Board this week after the agency recently was recognized by the state for a new app meant to help tourists explore all that DeKalb County has to offer.

The presentation by the bureau’s Executive Director Cortney Strohacker and marketing specialist Katherine McLaughlin. The County Board is expected to vote whether to name the bureau as it’s Agency of Record for Tourism with the Illinois Office of Tourism.

DeKalb County Administrator Brian Gregory said the bureau has annually been named the county’s agency of record for tourism and promotion in the state of Illinois.

“The county supports the efforts and initiative through a contribution of $15,000,” Gregory told the board’s executive committee Wednesday.

Strohacker said the agency promotes DeKalb County to a 55-mile radius.

The visitors bureau has one full time and two part time employees. Strohacker said that makes it one of the smallest bureaus in the state, but that hasn’t stopped it from punching above its weight.

The bureau created an app and website called Out and About that functions as a virtual tour guide for DeKalb County. If the setting is turned on, the app can send a user a notification if they’re near one of the over three dozen locations showcased. Users can also swipe over the map on their phone to read more about the various locations, without necessarily having to travel to them.

Strohacker and McLaughlin said the app was funded by donations from businesses and organizations in the community, some of whom were featured in the app’s map.

The Out and About app is how the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau won the 2022 Bruce Riley McDaniel Bureau Innovation Award from the Upper Midwest Convention and Visitor Bureau in the budget under $350,000 category.

“It was very exciting for us to be – like it was eight different states that came together for this convention, and with us being three people, really like, just like two and a half almost with full time and part time, and us sitting at tables where their staff is like fifteen – for us to be in this category and for us to take home this award was really a big deal,” McLaughlin said.

DeKalb’s visitors bureau also won the Best Cooperative Partnership Budget B Award at the 2022 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism.

“For the upper midwest the budget for that one was $350,000 or less, we don’t have that, even that big of a budget; for the Governor’s Conference it was $750,000 or less. We were going up against not only conventional visitors bureaus but we were going up against the Art Institute of Chicago for collaboration effort on this and we were able to take it home,” McLauglin said.

In addition to the Out and About App, DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau worked to expand its social media presence.

“TikTok, to me, is the new Google because people go there to search for what to do, where to go, and how to do it and how to make something more than they go to google currently,” McLauglin said. “So if you have a business I would definitely recommend getting on there.”

In 2022, the bureau also hired social media influencers – individuals with large followers on social media who make sponsored content – to travel through or stay in DeKalb County.

Strohacker said she can track how well the content from the influencers help the county’s tourism.

“We can also track all of that,” Strohacker said. “We have visitors views so we know how many people are actually seeing that and then coming here because they saw those things. So it’s a great way to track things and we do have ways and analytics to keep track of all of it.”

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