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Illinois Tourism Industry Says It Needs More Money

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Illinois Tourism

EnjoyIllinois.com, the Web site for the Illinois Office of Tourism. (Credit: Illinois Office of Tourism)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) – Yet another group says it needs more money – this time, the Illinois tourism industry.

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Dave Dahl reports, Jan Kostner, the head of the Illinois Office of Tourism, said at a presentation before state lawmakers that it takes money to make money.

“The old adage, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ is not true, and frankly, I don’t believe it was ever true,” Kostner said. “Many of you who come from the private sector know how crucial advertising is. You need to ask people to buy your product, or someone else will do it for you.”

Kostner told lawmakers every dollar spent brings a return of $6 to $9. She says Illinois has far more to offer tourists than Michigan does, but Michigan far outspends Illinois in getting the word out.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780′s Dave Dahl reports

At the presentation on Illinois tourism, several of the state’s best kept secrets were touted. Among them was the wine industry, which was the subject of a presentation by Megan Pressnall of the Illinois Grape Growers and Vintners Association.

Pressnall said winemaking is serious business in Illinois.

“We have a lot of people who may experiment in their basement or garage, but to take it to the next level, they need that professional expertise. Actually, we have our own oenologists on staff now that goes into a winery, takes the measurements of the chemical properties of the wine, and says, ‘You know, you might want to tweak this here,’” she said.

Pressnall says Illinois has 91 wineries, in all parts of the state, and her group has developed six wine trails.

Also speaking before state lawmakers was Jim Wahl of Pheasant Run Resort, the state’s bellman of the year.

“Tourism is not only about the visitors who come to our state. It is also about us employees, whose job is to take care of those visitors,” Wahl said, “and we appreciate our jobs. Nowadays, anybody does, and if they don’t they’re a fool.”

Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau chief Don Welsh echoed Kostner’s comments that promoting tourism takes money.

“We have built probably the greatest city in the world. At the end of the day, we’ve built a great product, and in some cases, we don’t have adequate marketing funds to really tell the world how to buy this great product,” he said.

Welsh is frustrated that his bureau’s budget has been stagnant for 13 years.

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