Kewanee, July 28, 2021—The Board of Directors of the Henry County Tourism Bureau (HCTB) voted to approve dissolution of the non-profit organization and to cease operations effective immediately. Dissolution of the HCTB is a result of several factors that affected eligibility for the Local Tourism and Convention Bureau (LTCB) grant from the Illinois Office of Tourism that HCTB relied on to fund its operation. This grant is available only to annually certified Convention and Visitor Bureau (CVB) organizations within Illinois. It has strict parameters for approved activities, such as requiring advertising and promotion outside of a 50-mile radius of the service area and limits on administrative and payroll expenses.
The HCTB is no longer able to meet the requirement for the organization to match 50% of the LTCB grant amount with local funding. This requirement was previously met by municipalities within Henry County providing either a lump-sum payment or sharing a percentage of their hotel tax revenue, which must be used for tourism by state law, with the HCTB. However, the City of Kewanee terminated their hotel tax sharing agreement, and the City of Geneseo will no longer provide its usual lump-sum funding support.
In addition, the HCTB is not able to renew its status as a certified CVB. The Henry County Board did not renew the Annual Cooperative Tourism Agreement designating HCTB as its tourism agency of record, citing financial hardship in the hospitality industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since it was organized in 1995, the HCTB has fulfilled its mission to promote Henry County’s attractions, events, and businesses in order to draw overnight visitors to Henry County. It has created and placed print and digital advertisements, developed and maintained a robust and informative website, published comprehensive Visitor Guides distributed in Tourist Information Centers throughout Illinois, and contributed time and money to many special projects such as interstate signage and special events.
According to Cheryl Osborne, the Director of the HCTB, “Henry County is a great destination for a weekend trip from Chicago or St. Louis. We responded to inquiries from people all over the state and region looking for information on things to do here”. Osborne continues, “Our tagline was “The Back Roads Beckon”, and our unique small businesses and friendly people have a lot to offer. This isn’t the end of tourism in Henry County.”