Visit Oak Park hosts concierge tour

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By Community Editor

Courtesy Visit Oak Park

Nearly 75 hotel concierges and guests arrived in Oak Park on Wednesday, July 24, to discover and experience the diverse attractions of the Village. Sponsored by Visit Oak Park, the Familiarization (FAM) Tour kicked off with a visit to Hemingway's Birthplace and moved on to the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. A guided tour of Pleasant Home was preceded by cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at the mansion provided by Marion Street Cheese Market, Cucina Paradiso, and Winberie's Restaurant. A closing reception with appetizers and drinks was held at Maya Del Sol. All four restaurants generously donated the food and beverages.

Among the Chicago area hotels represented were the Four Seasons Hotel, Sofitel Chicago Water Tower, Hotel Inter-Continental, Peninsula Hotel, Chicago Hilton and Towers, Drake Hotel, Ritz-Carleton, Millennium Knickerbocker, Embassy Suites Chicago (State Street), and the Wyndham Blake, among others.

"This event gave Chicago area hoteliers the opportunity to experience first-hand what

Oak Park has to offer," said Tom Lynch, President and CEO of Visit Oak Park. "The role of the concierge in influencing visitor destinations is significant," noted Lynch, "as they are the ones who most directly interact with tourists. Giving concierge staff the chance enjoy the cultural

highlights of our village puts them in the ideal position to recommend Oak Park as a side trip for both leisure and business travelers. This recent FAM tour effectively provided us with nearly 75 new 'ambassadors' for the architectural, historical and culinary gems we have here."

On hand for the festivities were six representatives from Key Magazine, a longtime

publisher of traveler's guides to destinations across the United States. The Magazine's publisher, Walter West, was instrumental in helping to organize and support the event by working directly with the Concierge Association in Chicago. Additional guests included Village of Oak Park Trustee Bob Tucker, Village Business Services Manager Loretta Daly, and Visit Oak Park's Board Chair, Ed Schmitt.

"According to the most recent numbers available, domestic travelers annually spent an average of more than $479 million in daytrips and overnight stays in the greater Oak Park area," said Lynch. "Spending by domestic travelers within the confines of the Village of Oak Park alone amounted to more than $181 million. Although Oak Park residents may not think of tourism as a major contributor to our local economy, they should be aware that the Oak Park area welcomes nearly three million domestic and international visitors per year and tourist expenditures directly generated nearly 4,700 jobs within the greater Oak Park area. We are striving to make tourism an even more substantial contributor to the local economy and FAM tours such as this one are a great way to accomplish that goal. We hope to make the Concierge FAM Tour an annual event."

Founded in 1993 as the Oak Park Visitors Bureau, Visit Oak Park is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) organization dedicated to the promotion of tourism and destination marketing for Oak Park and 20 other communities in western Cook County. It provides valuable visitor information services through its website, and the Visitors Center located at 1010 Lake St. in Oak Park.

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