Schedule of Events

Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism
2019 Schedule Announcements Coming Soon!

View previous 2018 schedule below!

Sunday, February 25

1:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Illinois VolunTourism Team
Illinois VolunTourism (IVT)

Illinois VolunTourism (IVT) is a volunteer opportunity for tourism organizations and their partners across our state. IVT is a chance to come together by donating our time and giving back to the areas and historic attractions that make Illinois the great tourism destination that it is. At our third annual IVT event, the Illinois Office of Tourism (IOT) invites all conference attendees to give back to the DuSable Museum of African American History. Don’t miss out on an afternoon of networking with fellow conference attendees and making a difference for Illinois tourism.

With every $30 registration, attendees will receive a branded volunteer t-shirt, water bottle and the opportunity to network amongst tourism professionals post the volunteer event at an exclusive cocktail reception. If you've already registered for the conference, but would still like to attend the IVT event, please email Colleen Correll at

Location: 740 E 56th Pl, Chicago, IL 60637

Sponsored by Peoria Area CVB

6:00 pm - 7:00 pm

IVT Participant Thank You Reception

On behalf of the Illinois Office of Tourism, this exclusive event will pay thanks to the dedicated tourism professionals involved in the day's volunteer event.

Monday, February 26

2:00 pm - 3:00 pm

Monday Leader Lab – Brown Sugar: Rockin’ the Economic Data

Anirban's back by popular demand with an economist's look at how travel and tourism will impact the economy in 2018. This presentation provides detailed discussions of global, national and regional economies using the most up-to-date data. Special attention is given to critical elements of economic life, including the performance of financial, labor and real estate markets.

Speaker: Anirban Basu, Chairman and CEO of Sage Policy Group

Location: Red Lacquer Room

Sponsored by

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Happy Hour for First-Time Attendees

Kick-off the conference an hour early with a special reception for all first-time attendees! You'll have the opportunity, along with participating mentors, to network with Cory Jobe, Director of Illinois Office of Tourism, in addition to tourism professionals and other industry leaders from across the state.

Location: Chicago Room

Sponsored by Crowdriff

6:00 pm - 6:45 pm

Pre-Awards Cocktail Hour

Prepare for the Awards Dinner as you mingle, greet and network with your fellow travel and tourism industry peers.

Location: Red Lacquer Room

Sponsored by Chicagoland Speedway & Route 66 Raceway

7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards Dinner

Some of the best jazz clubs in the world are found right here in Chicago. It's time we gave that legacy the attention it deserves. In the spirit of Chicago's historic jazz scene, we're bringing the jazz to you with “Jazzed About Tourism," celebrating the greatest and most innovative tourism marketing initiatives throughout the state and honoring some of Illinois tourism’s biggest advocates

Location: Ballroom

Sponsored by Travel Channel

Tuesday, February 27

8:30 am - 9:15 am

Arrival and breakfast

During Tuesday's breakfast, First Lady Rauner will make her Governor's Conference debut with a short presentation on the Illinois Governor's Mansion renovations.

Location: Ballroom

Breakfast Sponsored by Museums in the Park

9:15 am - 9:30 am

Break/Networking time

Guests will be given time to recharge, regroup and proceed to the next session on the schedule. The exhibitor hall will also be open at this time.

9:30 am - 10:30 am

Opening Keynote: A Travel Trend Report with Brand USA

Discover how to reach international travelers in 2018, what's on the horizon for destination marketing and what's next for Brand USA.

As Brand USA's VP of Research and a noted industry expert, Carroll Rheem is frequently quoted in trade and consumer media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, TIME magazine and Conde Nast Traveler. This year, she's bringing her Brand USA research to the ILGOV18 stage with a report on the latest trends and consumer insights.

Speaker: Carroll Rheem, Vice President of Research & Analytics at Brand USA

Location: Ballroom

Sponsored by Illinois Restaurant Association

10:30 am - 11:00 am

Break/Networking Time

Guests will be given time to recharge, regroup and proceed to the next session on the schedule. The exhibitor hall will also be open at this time.

11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Breakout Sessions

Option A: Power to the Pitch (Salon 4)

What does it take to get your destination, event, restaurant or attraction featured in the headlines? Our all-star panel of travel writers and media professionals will help you determine what’s news-worthy and provide insider-tips, including pitching do’s and don’ts, to get your stories noticed and secure media placements in print, digital and broadcast outlets.
Moderator: Marla Cichowski, Former Senior Producer of Al Jazeera America News Network and Current VP of Communications & Media Relations at TimeZoneOne
Panel Speakers: Kit Bernardi, Travel Journalist, Photographer & Marketer; Jake Eastburn, Executive Producer of KWQC’s Paula Sands Live; and Lisa Lubin, Travel & Food Writer and Photographer, Emmy®-Award Winning TV Producer and Founder of LLmedia

Option B: Secrets to Better Selling (Salon 3)

From the smallest local bed & breakfast to the largest global corporation, there’s one skill that transcends all industries – selling. This session will provide you with the knowledge you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors by creating a sales strategy that adds value every day. Learn about new tools for your destinations, hotels, attractions and industry partners to quickly expand influence and meet customer needs.
Speaker: Dave Hamilton, Senior Vice President at Signature Worldwide

Option C: The Motivations and Mindsets of Travelers (Salon 9)

Travel is not a one size fits all experience, and traveler motivations, preferences and priorities vary around the world. A new study commissioned by Expedia Media Solutions and conducted by Northstar Research Partners illustrates the complex and time-consuming purchase journey of digital travelers in the United States, the United Kingdom and China, comparing their digital behavior trends and uncovering the motives and emotions behind their consideration set as they search, discover, explore and book travel.
Speaker: Derek E. Price, Director of North America at Expedia Media Solutions

Sponsored by Meredith Travel Marketing

12:15 pm - 2:15 pm

Crisis Management & Tourism Security Luncheon

During our afternoon lunch, Dr. Peter E. Tarlow, PH.D., will unpack the importance of tourism security, discuss how it can be used in marketing destinations and help you prepare for your worst-case scenario.

Dr. Tarlow is a world-renowned speaker and expert specializing in the impact of crime and terrorism on the tourism industry, event and tourism risk management and tourism and economic development.

Speaker: Dr. Peter Tarlow, PH.D., Founder and President of Tourism & More

Location: Ballroom

2:15 pm - 2:45 pm

Break/Networking Time

Guests will be given time to recharge, regroup and proceed to the next session on the schedule. The exhibitor hall will also be open at this time.

2:45 pm - 3:45 pm

Breakout Sessions

Option A: Have Video, Will Travel (Salon 4)

Video is ubiquitous in today’s digital landscape. As the easiest and best way to tell your brand’s story, video and photography is a must for the savvy marketer. This insightful session demystifies video best-practices and provides immediately actionable tips to start producing high-quality videos for your audience. This session will also touch on how to capture compelling photography to promote and market your destination to the media.
Speaker: Lisa Lubin, Travel & Food Writer and Photographer, Emmy® Award Winning TV Producer and Founder of LLmedia

Option B: The Importance of the Evolving LGBTQ Travel Segment (Salon 3)

This session is designed for travel professionals interested in learning about the lucrative LGBTQ travel segment as well as best practices in marketing to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer travelers. Just bring an open mind and your questions. Join this interactive and informative panel with leading experts in LGBTQ travel.
Moderator: Ed Salvato, LGBTQ Travel Expert and Co-Author of the Handbook of LGBT Tourism & Hospitality Marketing: A Guide for Business Practice
Speakers: Tracy Baim, Publisher & Executive Editor at Windy City Times; Victor Salvo, Founder and Executive Director of The Legacy Project; Chad Honeycutt, Executive Director of NORTHALSTED Business Alliance

Option C: No Money, No Problems (Salon 9)

So celebrity endorsements aren’t in your budget this year – that doesn’t mean you can’t do great marketing. From low-budget to no-budget, we’ll teach you how to utilize low-cost strategies from targeted digital marketing to co-ops in major publications and leverage the Illinois Office of Tourism’s global efforts to make your marketing dollars go further.
Moderator: Justin Blandford, Illinois Department of Natural Resources
Speakers: Julie Sur, SVP, Public Relations and Social Media Strategy at TimeZoneOne; Fred Meyer, Digital Strategist at McDaniels Marketing; Steven Guerrini, Vice President of Sales at CTM Media Group; Tim O’Malley, Founder & CEO, Concierge Preferred

Sponsored by J. Walter Thompson

3:45 pm - 4:00 pm

Break/Networking Time

Guests will be given time to recharge, regroup and proceed to the next session on the schedule. The exhibitor hall will also be open at this time.

4:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Closing General Session: The Evolution of Digital Storytelling

Social media. Email marketing. "Content is king!" We think we've heard it all. But as they say, "times are a-changin," and how you tell your story digitally should too. Travelzoo Head of Communications, Cat Jordan, brings her expertise to bear with the latest digital tools and best practices to inspire your audience in 2018 -- from Facebook Live, to influencers, to the email marketing renaissance.

Speaker: Cat Jordan, Head of Communications at Travelzoo

Location: Ballroom

Sponsored by TimeZoneOne

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Last Call Innovation Hall Reception

Close the day by mingling with exhibitors and industry peers you connected with earlier in the day, over a cocktail at the closing Tradeshow Reception.

Location: Exhibitor Hall

Sponsored by Navy Pier

6:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Big Bus Transportation to Evening Networking Event

All bus drop-offs and pick-ups will take place from the Wabash Street side of the Palmer House.

7:00 pm - 9:00 pm

Evening Networking Event

Exclusive Screening of Brand USA's America's Musical Journey

Relax and network with industry peers at our annual Tuesday night reception. This year, you'll be wined and dined at Lucky Strike - Chicago before heading upstairs to the AMC River East 21 for an exclusive screening of the brand new music documentary, America's Musical Journey. Produced by Brand USA, America's Musical Journey takes viewers on an adventure across America, as it explores the cultures and experiences that gave rise to some of our most iconic musical traditions. Featuring a starring performance from Chicago's very own Jazz-scene, this is one night at the movies that won't disappoint.

Location: 322 E Illinois St, Chicago, IL 60611

Sponsored by Choose Chicago

9:15 pm - 11:00 pm

After-Party at The SNL Experience

You know what this conference needs? More cowbell.

Join us for a night-cap at the Museum of Broadcast Communications after Tuesday night's reception, and get exclusive access to the secrets of Saturday Night Live and some of Chicago's improv luminaries.

Get immersed in Saturday Night Live's fast-paced creative processes, and see how ideas come to life in just days. Interact with sets, original props, and costumes, as you take selfies on Jeopardy, rock out on the Wayne’s World couch, and deliver the ‘news’ from behind the Weekend Update desk. You’ve watched SNL – now relive the past 42 years in a way you never imagined. This exhibit is a once in a lifetime experience!

Location: 360 N State St, Chicago, IL 60654

Sponsored by Illinois Film Office

Wednesday, February 28

9:30 am - 11:30 am

Plated Breakfast & State of the State Tourism Address

This annual address will be taking a fresh look back at the marketing and advertising strategies that contributed to an amazing year for Illinois tourism. We will share our vision for the industry and offer a sneak preview of the exciting new initiatives and programs sure to make 2018 another great year.

Cory Jobe, Director, Illinois Office of Tourism

Location: Ballroom

Sponsored by Village of Rosemont