DCEO's Office of Tourism annually oversees a multi-million dollar advertising and promotional effort designed to attract domestic and international visitors to Illinois. The LTCB Grant program provides dollar-for-dollar matching grants to certified local tourism and convention bureaus like SITB to conduct promotional activities designed to increase the number of business and pleasure travelers visiting their areas.
The SITB serves the seven southernmost counties in Illinois: Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union. SITB's mission is to increase the number of overnight visitors throughout the seven counties, and with the help of the grant funds, SITB produced a 2011 annual visitor's guide. According to Cindy Benefield-Cain, Executive Director of SITB, "the guide is full of reasons to visit southernmost Illinois and offers information on the many magnificent sites worth a visit in southernmost Illinois."
The grant funds were also utilized to produce a video highlighting wineries located along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. "The Shawnee Hills Wine Trail is the number one tourist draw in Union County, with a few wineries along the trail located in Jackson County. Another wine trail, named the Southern Illinois Wine Trail, is growing as well." According to Benefield-Cain, "the wineries generate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the economy of southern Illinois."
The new video is being used as a promotional tool by many of the area's bed & breakfasts, cabins, hotels and wineries to encourage guests to visit other attractions and wineries along the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. SITB has also sent DVDs to tour planners and motor coach tours traveling in the area to play en route. Clips are also utilized as on-line promotions of the wineries along the Trail.
Grant funds have also enabled the four-person tourism operation to retain two jobs and enabled staffers to reach out to potential visitors by direct mail, telemarketing and personal contacts. This has poised the SITB to move forward with new ideas, new services, new growth and new vigor.
To plan your visit to southern Illinois visit www.southernmostillinois.com and for a full listing of southern Illinois wineries, visit www.illinoiswine.com/region_south.html