Forgoing discussion, members of the city’s Evanston Development Committee recommended a $55,739 membership fee for Chicago’s North Shore Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, with representatives from local business districts also weighing in on the value of the band.
Evanston is a founding member of the bureau, which is a state-certified Ministry of Trade and Economic Opportunity Tourism Bureau.
In addition to Evanston opportunities, the office promotes tourism, meetings and leisure activities for a number of North Shore communities including Wilmette, Glenview, Wheeling, Prospect Heights, Northbrook, Skokie, Glencoe and Northfield.
In a letter to the committee, Gina Speckman, the organization’s executive director, noted that the annual membership dues request is 66% lower than what the city was paying before the pandemic “and recognizes the lingering effects of the pandemic. on the local tax revenues of our member communities.
She said that in addition to the organization’s annual funding from the state, municipalities and the private sector, she also received a substantial stimulus grant from Cook County that “will provide additional resources for sales programs and marketing plan that we enact on behalf of the Town of Evanston and its businesses.”
Hotels showing signs of revival
Paul Zalmezak, the city’s director of economic development, as well as directors of the city’s special service districts — Downtown, Main/Dempster and Central Street — were among those who expressed support for the group’s work.
“CVB staff create and administer sales and marketing programs showcasing hotels, restaurants, attractions and retail, which in turn generates sales tax revenue for the city,” said writes Zalmezak. “CVB staff work closely with local hotels, restaurants, the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, Evanston’s three special service areas and all Evanston shopping districts to identify events that CVB can market regionally/nationally.”
He attached a chart to his memo showing hotel tax revenue for the city from 2019 to 2021. In May, hotel tax revenue reached $136,180, more than four times the 2020 total for this month, but less than the $186,973 collected by the city in pre-pandemic 2019.
Overall, Zalmezak wrote, “It appears the Evanston hotel market is slowly coming back with revenue in 2022 up from the peak pandemic period, but still less than in 2019 (although in improvement).
“The CVB is the only organization that markets Evanston and the major events that take place here beyond our main service area,” he added. “Their efforts bring activity to Evanston regionally, nationally and internationally. It is important that we redouble our efforts to attract visitors to Evanston hotels.
Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, which provides marketing and management services to the Downtown Special Services District, along with her counterparts, Katherine Gostick, of Main-Dempster Mile, and Angela Shaffer, of the Central Street Evanston Special Service Districts.
“We recommend their funding in our roles as economic development practitioners and leaders of Special Service Area (SSA) districts who build on this partnership, which helps us reach consumers outside of Evanston, as well as regional, national and international visitors,” the three directors wrote.
“Without the partnership with the CNSCVB and its large marketing budget, we would have limited reach with our limited advertising dollars. Downtown Evanston, Main Dempster Mile and Central Street have taken advantage of CNSCVB’s co-op advertising programs to purchase radio ads, CTA train ads, direct mail campaigns and digital media ads that effectively promoted summer events and holiday shopping. Plus, promoting our events on their widely read social media platforms as well as including our hotels, restaurants, retailers, attractions and events in their digital assets that wouldn’t get this far without their help.
Members of the newly elected city council last year voted 5-3 in favor of the office’s funding request, with some members calling for more data confirming the value the group’s efforts bring to the city.
At the June 29 meeting, members of the Economic Development Committee did not discuss the issue and moved to a voice vote, unanimously supporting the dues request.
The proposal will then be submitted to the full city council, which will have the final say on the matter.