Oak Park is a place "where small town charm meets urban attitude," according to the new website launched in mid-June by the local tourism organization Visit Oak Park. The website (www.visitoakpark.com) guides visitors on what to do, where to go, what to eat, and more in Oak Park and 17 other communities in the western suburbs.
The website aims to appeal to a more tech-savvy audience that tends to focus on online guides in lieu of dropping in on visitor centers.
That was the logic behind the move last year to close the Oak Park Visitor Center, 1010 Lake St., and instead use state and local tourism promotion dollars for online marketing and magazine ads in publications like Better Homes & Gardens, Midwest Living, Travel + Leisure and Family Circle.
Visit Oak Park historically has spent about $150,000 of its $734,500 annual budget on the visitor center.
The new website highlights Oak Park's architectural history, restaurants, outdoor adventures, arts, shopping and nightlife. The interactive website offers video, articles, photos and maps to give visitors a blueprint to the village.
Eric Wagner, Visit Oak Park's president and CEO, said in a telephone interview that "the idea is to get [visitors] to discover everything we have and stay longer and spend more money."
He described the website as a "digital magazine" for consumers coming to the area.
Visit Oak Park also is partnering with Riverside and Brookfield to help with their tourism marketing efforts.
He noted the revamped Visit Oak Park is focusing on social media and digital marketing to bring greater "brand awareness" to the village. The marketing effort is largely digital this year, but the organization plans to expand its effort next year, including more on print publications, billboards or television ads, he said.
"For us, it's really about trying to reach as many people as we can," Wagner said.
He acknowledged that the closure of the visitor center came with some controversy, but "we wanted to be strategic to get people to come here."
Visit Oak Park is now replicating the effort in Brookfield and Riverside, creating a "micro-tourism" website for those communities.
Wagner said the new Visit Oak Park site is going to expand over time, and his office already is getting a positive response from tourists.
"We're going to build on what we've got and our partnerships with other communities," he said.
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