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Hundreds Gather for 2024 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism

The annual event was held at the Peoria Civic Center and kicked off with an awards gala followed by a day-and-a-half of keynotes and workshops

By Amanda Christensen

Nearly 400 industry professionals convened at the Peoria Civic Center for the 2024 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism held March 19-21. Hosted by the Illinois Office of Tourism, the annual event aims to celebrate the successes of tourism around the state and promote connection among attendees.

Event fare on tables and attendees mingling and chatting. May 17, 2024
Event fare on tables and attendees mingling and chatting || Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

“The Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism is a vital gathering where key industry stakeholders converge to chart the course for Illinois’ tourism future,” says Daniel Thomas, deputy director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. “By facilitating meaningful connections, fostering knowledge exchanges, and showcasing best practices and new emerging trends, the event empowers professionals to navigate the evolving landscape of travel and tourism successfully.”

Daniel Thomas speaking on stage during the awards ceremony on night one of the conference. May 17, 2024
Daniel Thomas speaking on stage during the awards ceremony || Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

It kicked off the first night with the Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards, which took on an Irish theme following St. Patrick’s Day on March 16 with lush greenery and gold accents for decor. “This year’s awards were handcrafted by Galena Spoon Co., a maker in our ‘Illinois Made’ program that spotlights local businesses as hidden gems around the state,” says Thomas. “They were carved out of Illinois-sourced wood and featured intricate designs of Illinois’ state flower, the violet.” The awards program was hosted by Catie Keogh, a two-time Emmy Award-winning host, executive producer, and travel expert. The coveted Best in Show award was given to Meet Chicago Northwest for its “exceptional submission in the Outstanding Niche Targeting Budget A category, called ‘Chicago Northwest is Your Home for Golf,’ which outlined the impressive impact of its initiative and set a high standard for excellence within our industry,” Thomas explains.

Group of attendees dress in St. Patrick's Day-themed attire for the awards ceremony. May 17, 2024
Group of attendees dressed in St. Patrick’s Day-themed attire for the awards ceremony || Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

The awards ceremony was followed by a day-and-a-half of networking opportunities, keynote speakers, seminars, and workshops. The theme for the conference was “Future Forward,” focused on looking ahead to paths for success within the industry. The venue was transformed into a visual showcase of the state’s diverse attractions with decor in the color scheme of the Enjoy Illinois logo. “Every aspect of the conference’s ambience was curated to reflect the wide array of Illinois’ tourism offerings and unique visitor experiences all around the state,” says Thomas. “Balloon arches in the iconic blue and white of the Enjoy Illinois logo and a larger-than-life ‘Illinois’ logo provided fun and engaging photo opportunities, encouraging attendees to capture memorable moments to share on social media.”

The handcrafted, wood-carved awards given to Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards winners. May 17, 2024
The handcrafted, wood-carved awards given to Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards winners || Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

This year’s event provided a diverse roster of speakers throughout the multiday gathering, including thought leaders like Erik Evjen, executive vice president at Tourism Economics; Atiera Coleman, chief equity officer for the State of Illinois; Ellen Davis, executive vice president at the U.S. Travel Association; and more.

Speaker Ellen Davis of the U.S. Travel Association on stage. May 17, 2024
Speaker Ellen Davis of the U.S. Travel Association || Courtesy of the Illinois Office of Tourism

ilgovconference.com

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