Schedule of Events

This schedule will be updated regularly as we near the start of the conference. *Schedule is subject to change*

Tuesday, March 19

10:00 am - 7:30 pm

Registration Open

Welcome to ILGOV24! Check in to pick up your badge, download the digital schedule and plan out your week.

Location: Peoria Civic Center

Sponsor: Illinois Restaurant Association

10:00 am - 7:30 pm

Media Auction

Here's your chance to get media at an incredible price with our ILGOV Media Auction. Get your dollars ready!

12:00 pm - 1:30 pm

Illinois Destinations Association (IDA) Board of Directors Meeting

IDA will have a working lunch Board Meeting at the Discover Peoria offices located at 465 Fulton Street, Suite 300. This meeting is for board members of the association and lunch will be provided.

2:00 pm - 2:45 pm

Tourism Grant Opportunity Working Session (CVB Staff Only)

Back by popular demand! Join Greg Mihalich and the Illinois Office of Tourism as they recap the Grant Opportunities in FY24 and what's on the horizon for FY25. Processes have changed post-COVID19, and this working session will be an opportunity for our certified CVB partners to ask questions, give feedback and seek advice. ***strictly limited to CVB staff only***

2:45 pm - 4:00 pm

Illinois Office of Tourism Marketing Updates (up to 3 CVB staff only)

It all begins at ILGOVCONF24, as the Illinois Office of Tourism kicks off its inaugural "Enjoy Illinois Monthly Marketing Mashup" as we commence a monthly CVB/IOT marketing forum for us to share ideas so our certified CVB partners can learn what's happening in our world of marketing, campaigns, visitor trends and all things content. We will begin by giving an update from IOT on The Tourism Exchange, Illinois Visitors, Arrivalist Research Tool, and our upcoming plans for Spring/Summer. ***strictly limited to 3x CVB, IOT International Offices and TIC staff only***

5:30 pm - 6:00 pm

First Timers’ Happy Hour

This is the official welcome for all of our first time attendees! You'll have the opportunity to network with the Illinois Office of Tourism along with other tourism professionals and industry leaders across the state. We'll also be welcoming our IL Made Makers who will be in attendance at the conference.

6:00 pm - 6:45 pm

Pre-awards Cocktail Hour

Kick off awards night with a pre-dinner cocktail, where you can mingle and network with industry peers. Don't forget to wear festive Irish attire!

Sponsor: Worldwide Technology Raceway & NASCAR Chicago

7:00 pm - 9:30 pm

Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards Dinner

Get ready for all kinds of shenanigans! We'll have dinner, drinks and a wee bit of fun when we recognize the winners of the 2024 Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards.

Sponsor: Spurrier Group

Wednesday, March 20

8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Registration Open

Check in to pick up your badge

Location: Peoria Civic Center

Sponsor: Illinois Restaurant Association

8:00 am - 5:00 pm

Tradeshow Open

Stop into the Exhibitor area to explore all the great companies, products and offerings we have from this year's tradeshow participants. In an effort to be as green as possible, we encourage all attendees to BYOB – bring your own (reusable) bag!

8:00 am - 5:45 pm

Media Auction

Here's your chance to get media at an incredible price with our ILGOV Media Auction. Get your dollars ready!

8:00 am - 8:45 am


Join your fellow attendees to fill your belly before a day full of insights

8:40 am - 8:45 am

Welcome from Daniel Thomas

Hear some short remarks from Daniel Thomas, Deputy Director, Illinois Office of Tourism, who will kick off a great day of sharing, learning and collaborating. At IOT, Daniel leads efforts to attract domestic and international travelers to Illinois with a mission to increase visitor numbers, spending, and overnight stays year over year.

He joins DCEO with decades of experience in the travel and tourism communications industry. A native Kiwi, Thomas began his career with Air New Zealand at age seventeen where he worked his way into senior management roles. He then led a two-year business turnaround at Sky Tower, Auckland’s #1 tourist attraction. Thomas has called Illinois home since 2007, when he began serving as GM of the John Hancock Observatory, ideating Chicago’s now-iconic “TILT” experience to life. He then led the World Federation of Great Towers and a global communications agency. He lives in Itasca with his husband, Bobby, and their two dogs, Este and Bourbon.

8:45 am - 9:00 am

Remarks from Rich Gamble, Interim President and CEO, Choose Chicago

Rich Gamble’s story is Chicago through and through and he brings over 30 years of extensive experience in strategic and tactical leadership to the position of Interim President and CEO of Choose Chicago. He has held a diversity of roles across various sectors, including not-for-profit, media, quick service restaurants, and industrial supply organizations.

Rich founded Realized Value Collaborative LLC in 2021 and held leadership positions at the Chicago Zoological Society (Brookfield Zoo) and the Chicago Tribune. A passionate advocate for Chicago, he has served on numerous boards, including the Chicago Loop Alliance, The Magnificent Mile Association, the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, and the Chicago Police Foundation.

Rich is a proud Chicago native, holding a master’s degree in marketing from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Business and a bachelor’s in behavioral sciences from the University of Chicago.

9:00 am - 11:00 am

Future Forward: Building the Workforce of Tomorrow

Speaker | Eric Termuende

With unemployment rates still nearly historically low, and talent difficult to find, the future of tourism in Illinois is largely going to be based on how well we serve the people that visit the state. To do that, we must attract top talent, understand the next generation of work, and become a desired employment destination.

In this interactive session, industry leaders will not only discover how to differentiate their culture and attract top talent, they’ll be able to roll up their sleeves and get to work together to understand what sets their workplace culture apart from others in the room and across the state. Those that understand their differentiators, articulate them effectively, and leverage their greatest recruiters (their people) are going to thrive in a wildly unpredictable future of work.

11:00 am - 11:15 am

Remarks from Governor JB Pritzker

Governor JB Pritzker was sworn in as the 43rd Governor of Illinois on Jan. 14, 2019. Since taking office, he has accomplished one of the most ambitious and consequential policy agendas in state history.

Before becoming governor, Pritzker founded 1871, the non-profit small business incubator in Chicago. Since its creation, Chicago has been named one of the top ten technology startup hubs in the world, and 1871 was named the best incubator in the world. As governor, he continues to expand support for new business creation throughout the state and cut taxes for hundreds of thousands of small businesses while incentivizing job creation. Since 2019, annual new business startups in Illinois have grown by nearly 70%. Illinois now has the largest growth in small business creation among the largest states in the nation, beating states like California, Texas, Florida and New York.

Governor Pritzker and his wife, MK, have been married for more than 25 years, and they are the proud parents of daughter, Teddi, and son, Don.

11:15 am - 11:45 am

Tradeshow Networking Break

Take a break and stop into the Exhibitor area to learn, explore and network before lunch begins.

Sponsor: Adara

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


Settle in with fellow attendees for a lunch break before we continue our day of tourism education.

1:15 pm - 2:00 pm

Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Understanding the Traveler Path to Purchase

Matt Hansen | Director of Business Development, Expedia Group Media Solutions

Learn how the traveler journey has changed as it relates to inspiration, research, planning and booking. Diving into path-to-purchase research, this session will uncover what resources are utilized and where content consumption is taking place at each stage of the booking funnel.

Sponsor: Expedia Group Media Solutions


Navigating the AI Landscape in Travel & Tourism

AJ Kinney | Director of Partnerships, Matador Network
Greg Oates | SVP of Innovation, MMGY NextFactor
Matt Clement | Madden Media Managing Partner

Delve into the intricate world of AI within the travel and tourism industry during this enlightening session. Explore practical strategies for harnessing AI technologies to personalize customer experiences, optimize operations, and stay ahead in a rapidly evolving market landscape. Gain invaluable insights on navigating the complexities and maximizing the potential of AI to propel your destination or business to new heights.


Tourism Exchange Learning Lab

Nate Huff | President, Tourism Exchange USA

The Illinois Office of Tourism is partnering with Brand USA to bring Illinois' unique travel experiences to the world through Tourism Exchange USA. The Tourism Exchange democratizes the product development and distribution landscape, allowing attractions, experiences and accommodations of all sizes to connect their live product inventory to global OTAs and tour operators. Get a preview of the Exchange and how your destination or business can participate at this session.

2:00 pm - 2:30 pm

Tradeshow Networking Break

Take a break to recharge, regroup and stop into the Exhibitor area before the next session begins.

Sponsor: Ateema Media & Marketing

2:30 pm - 3:00 pm

Tourism Forecasting: Storms Ahead?

Speaker | Erik Evjen | Tourism Economics
Moderator | Daniel Thomas | IOT

Both leisure and business travel have rebounded with impressive strength over the past two years. However, an economic slowdown tremors and persistent inflation loom large and threaten travel demand.

In this interactive fireside chat with our Deputy Director, Daniel Thomas, Erik will share Tourism Economics’ perspective on national, regional and local travel trends, and their latest views on the economy, the mindset of travelers, and expectations for the evolution of travel, particularly in the Illinois market.

3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Unlocking the Potential of AI in Tourism

Speaker | Janette Roush | NYC Tourism

Amidst the pervasive chatter surrounding AI, questions abound: Is the technology truly sentient? Could it tempt our children into academic dishonesty? And why does the blog post it produced for me fall so flat? Let's pause and redirect our focus towards how tourism marketers can leverage this technology to their advantage.

In this session, we'll explore practical applications that extend beyond content generation. Whether you're a newcomer or seasoned pro, prepare to be motivated to establish your account and delve into prompt engineering post-session. And in case you're wondering, yes, this session description was written with the help of AI.

4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

Last Call Tradeshow Reception

Close the day by mingling with exhibitors and industry peers over appetizers and cocktails.

Sponsor: Illinois Tourist Information Centers

6:30 pm - 9:30 pm

A Night On The Town

Here's your chance to discover Downtown Peoria with our exciting off-site event! Jump on a shuttle for a coordinated route from the Peoria Riverfront Museum to the door of downtown Peoria establishments.

  • Stop 1 - Kelleher's Irish Pub: Use your token to get one free domestic beer, glass of house wine or well mixed drink.
  • Stop 2 -  8 Bit Arcade Bar: Get one free domestic beer or well mixed drink, then FREE arcade games.
  • Stop 3 - Black Band Distillery: Use your token to get one free batch cocktail crafted with Peoria-made whiskey. Also, The Cigar Shack will be available curbside.
  • Stop 4 - Peoria Hotel Pere Marquette: Wind down your night with a cheesecake from one of our Illinois Made Makers, Triple Dipple Treats + Delicacies.

Buses will begin loading outside of the conference hotels at 6:15 pm for a 6:30 departure for the Peoria Riverfront Museum. Guests will have 90 minutes to explore the museum before departing to explore the other stops.You'll be given an official passport for the circuit of four stops. Complete the stops for your chance to win a gift package valued at more than $200!

Sponsor: MMGY Global

Thursday, March 21

8:00 am - 9:00 am

Media Auction

Here's your chance to get media at an incredible price with our ILGOV Media Auction. Get your dollars ready!

8:00 am - 11:00 am

Registration Open

Check in to pick up your badge

Location: Peoria Civic Center

Sponsor: Illinois Restaurant Association

8:00 am - 12:00 pm

Destination Day

Today is Destination Day! Join us in celebrating the final day of the conference by teaming up with your co-workers and representing your organization with your attire. This can include your logo, your colors — or simply a creative expression of who you are. Not only is this a conversation starter, it's a great opportunity to represent your destination in a fun way on the last day of the conference.

8:00 am - 8:30 am


Join your fellow attendees to fill your belly before a day full of insights

8:30 am - 9:00 am

Shaping the Travel Industry’s Next Chapter: Driving Growth in the Months Ahead

Ellen Davis | US Travel Association
Moderator | Daniel Thomas | IOT

During this fireside chat with our Deputy Director Daniel Thomas, Ellen Davis, U.S. Travel’s Executive Vice President of Business Strategy and Industry Engagement, will explore the current state of the industry from USTA's perspective—providing a look at the latest trends, opportunities and challenges facing travel at both the national and state level. Ellen will dive into the Association's focus on targeted efforts to facilitate long-term industry-wide growth—highlighting upcoming opportunities for engagement and advocacy alongside colleagues from diverse industry sectors.

9:00 am - 9:15 am

Remarks from Kristin A. Richards, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO)

Kristin A. Richards was appointed by Governor JB Pritzker in January 2023. In this capacity, Richards oversees the Department’s mission of spurring equitable economic development and creating a positive economic climate to attract job creators, support Illinois’ skilled workforce and bolster communities to improve the quality of life and provide economic opportunities for Illinoisans across the state. DCEO’s diverse portfolio includes leading the state’s business attraction and expansion efforts, issuing capital infrastructure grants to spur economic development in communities, providing Illinoisans with utility bill assistance, and leading the state’s tourism efforts, among others.

Throughout her career, Richards has held various leadership roles in the executive and legislative branches – serving three governors and serving as Chief of Staff for two Senate presidents.

Richards was raised in Belleville, Illinois, and currently resides in Chicago.

9:15 am - 10:15 am

DEIA Matters: How DEIA influences and strengthens the tourism industry

Dr. Atiera Coleman | Chief Equity Officer | State of Illinois
Vanessa Harris | PE, President and Founder, Strategy | Access Foundation
Dr. Warren R. Anderson | Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion | Bradley University
Precious Brady-Davis | Associate Regional Communications Director | Sierra Club

Delve into the vital role of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) initiatives in propelling businesses towards their objectives. This session will offer an overview of the Governor's Office of Equity's approach to DEIA, encompassing its definitions, strategies and collaborative efforts to embed these principles into core functions. Gain insights from prominent industry leaders while we explore best practices, challenges, and successful case studies showcasing the impact of DEIA implementation.

10:15 am - 10:30 am

Morning Networking Break

Take a moment to catch up on emails or catch up with friends before heading to the breakout session of your choice.

Sponsor: Tripadvisor

10:30 am - 11:15 am

Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Social 101: Take Control of Your Social Media Strategy

Alex Stewart | Influencer
Jenny LeFlore | Influencer
Teddy Heidt | EI Social Media Manager x Moderator

Using social media in your marketing plans is one thing – doing it successfully is another. From the rapidly changing algorithms to the constant need for content, there is much to consider when managing strategy and messaging, and it can be overwhelming. This interactive panel will break down the dos and don'ts of managing social media marketing, from strategy and design to content creation and more.


How You Can Win With Sports Tourism

John David | President and CEO | Sports Events & Tourism Association

Uncover how hosting sports events can be a catalyst for economic growth, community engagement, and lasting legacies. This session will share strategies to leverage sports tourism as a dynamic tool for branding your destination, fostering civic pride, and building collaborative partnerships. Learn the latest trends in this growing vertical as well as a sneak peek of the latest data from the Sports ETA State of the Industry Report.

Sponsor: Visit Springfield


Agritourism on the Rise—Tips for Growing Visitation

Neil Dahlstrom | John Deere Branded Properties
Dr. Renata Endres | University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport, and Tourism, Teaching Assistant Professor
Ken Myszka | Epiphany Farms Hospitality (Illinois Made Maker)
Rachel Coventry | Curtis Orchards (Illinois Made Maker)
Terri Reifsteck | VP Marketing & Community Engagement | Experience Champaign-Urbana

Discover essential tactics for increasing visitation in agritourism, specifically tailored to the Illinois landscape. Key leaders representing the state's agritourism industry will discuss their innovative approaches to enhancing guest experiences, fostering collaborations, and driving foot traffic and engagement within the state's agricultural attractions.

11:30 am - 12:15 pm

Trends With Benefits: Profiting from the Future of Tourism

Speaker | Daniel Levine

As an Illinois tourism professional, knowing what is now isn’t enough – you also want to know what will be if you want to stay ahead. Tomorrow’s world will look very different from today so get ready for an "advance preview" of the most amazing trends that are changing the way we work, play and travel. Global trends leader Daniel Levine will wrap up this year's conference with a visionary's perspective on everything that matters – including the future of food, technology, transportation, hospitality, communication and more. Plus, he will show you what it all means for your business to help you kickstart innovation and turbocharge growth.

12:15 pm - 1:00 pm

State of the State Tourism Address

Let’s finish ILGOVCONF24 on a tourism high!

Join us for an industry tradition, where Daniel Thomas, Deputy Director, Illinois Office of Tourism, will give us a glimpse into the future of tourism in Illinois. We will celebrate our successes as an industry, learn of our opportunities and see where we are going as we continue our inspiring journey of telling the Illinois story to the world.