ST. CHARLES – National Tourism Week took on a local focus Thursday morning at Hickory Knolls Discovery Center in St. Charles. About 75 local officials and business associates gathered for a breakfast meeting to celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Bureau officers said they are proud of the city’s annual events, such as Scarecrow Festival, which can draw as many as 150,000 visitors to St. Charles. It was featured last fall on NBC’s “Today.”
“Our biggest accomplishment, though, is the fact that we’ve been able to identify St. Charles, and the Greater St. Charles area, as truly a destination,“ said Amy Egolf, executive director of the bureau. “And it’s not only a destination for the leisure travelers who attend our events, but also for business, sports and technical groups that have an economic impact on our area.”
Keynote speaker Jen Hoelzle is deputy director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. She said that during her travels, she loves to talk with people about their perceptions of our state.
“What I often hear is people think Illinois is like New York, but without the attitude,” she said. Her group aims to focus a new marketing campaign on the real people of Illinois and the hospitality of the state.
New St. Charles Mayor Ray Rogina has his own plans for the city’s future.
“It would be nice to say in the next two to three years that we could double our visitors to St. Charles,” Rogina said. “It’s a beautiful community, from our local heritage to our natural beauty, so there are lots of opportunities to bring more people in to enjoy it.”
Rogina also wants to enhance entertainment and dining options for visitors, and down the road, possibly look at adding a children’s museum or an art museum downtown.
The meeting closed with the installation of new officers for the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau. James Breen will be the bureau’s new president, with Tim Foley as vice president/treasurer and Steve Martin as secretary. Board members include Tom Donahue, David Hunt, Joe Salas, Lynn Caldwell, Ron Onesti and Dan Stellato.