Last week a special meeting was called to discuss the potential loss
of revenues that currently support the bureau. The bureau was
established by the county and operates from a portion of a 5 percent
hotel-motel tax. The bureau receives the equivalent of a 4 percent
By state law, the municipality has first dibs on that tax,
which is tagged for the promotion of tourism.
The city of Lincoln could possibly take over the hotel-motel
taxes that are generated in Lincoln. While preparing for a new
fiscal year that begins May 1, city officials have put the figures
into the city budget. But, the matter had not been taken to the
council as of the time of the tourism bureau's March 26 meeting.
At last week's special session, there was no known date if or
when the change might happen. However, Geoff Ladd, the bureauís
executive director, put the brakes on several long-term,
time-sensitive commitments that involve big dollars for advertising
and some other plans. The bureau was also approaching its annual
grant application and renewal as a tourist entity with the state of
Illinois. Ladd said he had never had to shut down an agency and
wasn't sure what steps might need to be taken nor the timing. He
also didn't want to commit funds that the city might choose
otherwise for their use.
This week the new city of Lincoln administrator, Sue McLaughlin,
was in attendance and said that the date would definitely not be May
1. The city could not be prepared by that time with what paperwork
and legal steps would be required.
McLaughlin also said that Alderman Tom O'Donohue sent his
apologies that he could not be in attendance as city liaison. He was
in a meeting that ran over.
At the opening of normal business, the board was presented with a
demonstration of how technology devices will soon be enhancing the
visitor experience in Logan County. More and more people are
carrying mobile devices such as smartphones, iPads and tablets that
can scan or enter numbers and connect through the Web to valuable
information. Preparations are under way to add bar codes with
numbers to visitor sites.
"Explore Logan County" creator David Doolin introduced the
project at last year's bureau breakfast. Doolin has developed a
website that is now active and offers basic site and community
information, but holds the potential for much more.
According to Doolin, using the Web and today's mobile technology
devices, Logan County can draw more visitors into its communities
and give them a fuller, more satisfying tourist experience. This
technology is used in other areas and working well.
The system would track visitor interests and help lead to a
better understanding of the reason each visitor is here. By offering
information such as other nearby attractions, places to eat and
events going on locally, it would also help the visitor find other
interests here. It can even provide a low-cost audio narration.
"Engaged visitors translates into tourism dollars," Doolin said.
Doolin has been working with Ladd to use traditional methods to
engage with the online world. Currently printed materials used as
base level of information would be enhanced by adding the website
address, which would extend information: where to stay, what to see,
where to eat, what is currently going on and more.
Doolin cited an example of visitors coming to one of the sports
tournaments and looking for places to go while here.
Each attraction can have a bar code that provides a direct link
into the display. The code brings up other nearby attractions,
events and valuable information for the visitor.
The information options would be up to the bureau to help decide.
He didn't think it needed to be limited to just tourist-type
information. Often visitors would like to pick up more of the local
flavor than just a historic site.
His suggestions included:
than historic sites, architecture, local points of interest,
museums, outdoor sculpture, murals
Food and dining
Parks and recreation
Events and festivals
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Peggy Lee, one of the tourism bureau directors, said that Doolin
has been working with Elkhart in developing connections for their
community. She explained as Doolin demonstrated via PowerPoint all
the information on Elkhart's upcoming spring activities on the
Explore Logan County website.
Since Midwest Living magazine came out last week with Elkhart
featured in its the latest edition, Doolin has tracked over 400
interest hits on the Elkhart information.
Doolin is also working on a mascot character. Scout, the
adventurer is still under development, but incorporates elements of
Abraham Lincoln and Route 66.
One thing Doolin would like to see yet, is a unified
resource to point visitors toward to start their journey.
The business portion of the meeting proceeded as normal with a
review of upcoming events, advertising and promotional opportunities
for the county as a whole.
Still on hold:
The bureau directors were excited about recent news that three
Logan County groups received grants. The Logan County Looking for
Lincoln, Lincoln Heritage Museum of Lincoln College and the Mount
Pulaski Courthouse Foundation received $1,500 each for projects that
help promote tourism in Logan County. The funding is from the
Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition/Abraham Lincoln National
Heritage Area 2012 Partnership Grant program.
The directors also discussed and decided on advertising in a
couple of magazines and television. It was believed that placement
in Chicago Life Magazine reaches affluent readers of the
Wall Street Journal. Ron Keller commented that the Heritage Museum
is seeing more international visitors who make their start in
Chicago. "The sooner we can get our name in front of them, the
better," he said.
Other ads decided on were to go in campaigns focused on travel
and included for TV in the Springfield market and a "Getaway guide"
for readers reaching nearby Bloomington, Mattoon and Decatur
Ladd reported that he had received notice of final approval of a
state attraction sign to go on Interstate 55
at Exit 126. It is an achievement, in that it
will be the first in the state using the new Looking for Lincoln
He also reported that he recently attended the Governor's
Conference on Tourism and that it was the best ever. He'll have a
report next month.
Other board members attended a couple of other conferences.
Barbara Stroud-Borth attended Rural Partnership and Nancy Saul
attended a conference on social media, which ties into what is now
in development with the Explore Logan County.
Ladd said that when it comes to technology advancements and
tourism, it's always changing, growing and now massive. The bureau
will have a place on LinkedIn, Pinterest, 4squared and others, and a
Twitter feed to tourism is in the works.
Since Paul Gleason had resigned as chairman following last week's
special session, Stacie Wachtel opened the meeting as vice chairman.
In the first order of business, Wachtel was made chairman and Peggy
Lee of Elkhart accepted the vice chairmanship.
In lighter moments, Ladd said he enjoyed saying "Madam chairman"
while sitting beside Wachtel as she facilitated the meeting.
The meeting at the Holiday Inn began at 4:30 p.m. and went into
executive session for further discussion just after 6 p.m.
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