Visit Oak Park, the local tourism bureau, is in the midst of considerable change. Overdue change.
There is a new executive director, Eric Wagner, hired this year by a board ready for new approaches. Under the hood, that change looks like a new website currently in development. On the street, that looks like the major decision to shutter the Visit Oak Park retail outlet in downtown Oak Park by year’s end.
That decision will lessen the group’s immediate visibility and displace a band of dedicated volunteers. But more critically it will eliminate the $100,000-plus annual loss the retail location creates and allow those scarce funds to be reallocated to marketing of Oak Park and its sister communities, which promote themselves under the Visit Oak Park umbrella.
This is a small organization with limited, and depending on the state of the state’s financial turmoil, uncertain resources and a big mission — drawing tourists to the Oak Park area. The goal is to draw Chicago convention visitors, Midwest visitors, international visitors. Reaching them to tell the story of Hemingway or the Brookfield Zoo is about marketing that is both highly targeted and broad-based. That takes precious dollars, which in this case are being reallocated from the retail effort.