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Garden of the Gods - Southern Illinois

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Dec 3, 2021


Tourism Leaders Gather in Chicago for 2021 Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism

Conference to feature prominent tourism thought leaders, Dec. 6-8

CHICAGO – The state’s annual conference for tourism industry professionals will gather Dec. 6-8 at the Sable Hotel at Navy Pier in Chicago. The annual Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel & Tourism unites state leaders, travel experts and special guests to learn about the latest trends and best practices contributing to one of the top industry sectors in Illinois.

“The Illinois tourism industry is a critical part of our state’s economy supporting hundreds of hospitality businesses across the state that employ thousands of Illinoisans,” said Sylvia I. Garcia, Acting Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). “This conference is an opportunity for tourism leaders to gather together in person to celebrate all Illinois has to offer and continue to chart a strong recovery for the tourism industry.” 

The conference will feature tourism experts who will discuss industry insights and where tourism is headed. “We look forward to welcoming tourism partners from across the state to this year’s conference as we work to revive the industry and reclaim Illinois’ place as a top domestic and international destination for business and leisure travel,” said Karla Flannery, deputy director of the Illinois Office of Tourism.

The annual State of the State Tourism Address will take place on Dec. 8 at 9:30 AM in the Aon Grand Ballroom. The address will reflect on the Illinois Office of Tourism’s accomplishments during the past year that have contributed to the state tourism industry’s ongoing recovery and highlight plans for 2022.    

Conference highlights include: 

Navigating the Perilous Road to Recovery – Adam Sacks, Founder and President of Tourism Economics

Dec. 7, 8:30 AM - 9:30 AM

The leisure market has led the recovery to date, and economic fundamentals point to a solid foundation for continued rebuilding. However, business and group travel remain suppressed and risks to the recovery remain. Adam Sacks will share Tourism Economics’ latest views on the economy, the mindset of travelers and expectations for how and when travel will fully recover.

The Surprising Solution to Workplace Diversity – Arwa Mahdawi, Brand Strategist and Author

Dec. 7, 9:45 AM - 10:30 AM

While companies have spent a lot of time talking about the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion, the results have frequently been disappointing. Consultant, journalist and author of Strong Female Lead: Lessons from Women in Power Arwa Mahdawi looks at why so many corporate DEI initiatives have either backfired or made little ground--and reveals the surprising solution to diversity in the workplace. 

Rishad Tobaccowala, Author, Speaker and Advisor

Dec. 7, 1:00 PM - 1:45 PM

Rishad Tobaccowala is an expert in getting people to see, think and feel differently about how to grow themselves, their teams and their businesses. In this keynote, he will review the key long-term changes caused by Covid-19, how we can best change as people to thrive in the years ahead, and how to upgrade our ability to drive revenue and satisfy consumers/visitors in new ways.

State of the State Tourism Address

Dec. 8, 9:30 AM - Aon Grand Ballroom

Karla Flannery, Deputy Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism, will reflect on the industry’s biggest accomplishments during a challenging year and share a sneak peak of new initiatives and programs for 2022.

Niche Travel Trends: Cannabis, Wellness & Sustainability

Dec. 8, 10:45-11:30 AM

Cathy Ritter, Founder and CEO of Better Destinations LLC, will divide into three of the most buzzed about travel trends: cannabis, wellness and sustainability.

In addition, the Illinois Office of Tourism will honor and recognize tourism leaders for their contributions to the industry over the past year.

Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards & Silver Lining Stories

Dec. 6, 7:15 PM-10 PM - Aon Grand Ballroom

Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards dinner will honor and celebrate the most innovative tourism marketing initiatives throughout the state.

Silver Lining Stories

A new initiative for this year's conference will recognize the local communities behind some of the most inspiring stories during the pandemic. Silver Lining Stories honor the people and small businesses that rallied to support their communities with an innovative spirit during a time of significant uncertainty.


For a complete conference schedule and full list of speakers at this year’s Illinois Governor’s Conference on Travel and Tourism, visit



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The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Office of Tourism manages industry efforts that result in sustainable and significant economic and quality-of-life benefits for Illinois residents.


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