Dennis DuChene would prefer to look toward the future rather than back on the past. But he wouldn’t mind returning to — and even surpassing — the good times of six or seven years ago.
“The economic development of the community in 2008 was really on a roll . . . until things hit a slide,” said DuChene, president of the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I really feel like we’re getting close to that same momentum again going into 2014. I think the economy has changed. People are starting to spend money. And we have a great location and great partners to help bring people here.”
Attracting people to the Kenosha area is key, DuChene said, because if they visit once they often return, and they share their enthusiasm with others.
“Our biggest challenges is getting people here for that first-time experience,” he said. “But once we do, over 98 percent of them will recommend a future visit to friends and family.”
More visitors means more revenue, and that translates into a healthier economic environment. So DuChene and other bureau employees focus on a variety of ways to attract people to their pocket of southeastern Wisconsin.
To that end, their marketing plan aims to reach a little farther geographically. The bureau has a strong social media presence, using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest and more to grab attention for the many local events, activities and attractions.
And there’s a greater emphasis on growing the list of reasons people want to shop here, dine here and enjoy what the area has to offer.
Among the draws for 2014 is baseball. The Kenosha Kingfish will begin their inaugural season in May as part of the Northwoods League. And during the Fourth of July weekend, 48 high school-age baseball teams will be here competing in the Mid-American World Series.
And there’s a new experience over at Kenosha’s Civil War Museum: “Seeing the Elephant,” a high-tech, digital, 360-degree movie. Seeing the elephant was the term Civil War soldiers used to say they saw battle.
“More than 75 percent of visitors who come to the Civil War Museum come from out of town. This is a great opportunity to showcase the lakefront,” DuChene said, adding that a couple new festivals are planned for the lakefront, too.
DuChene wasn’t willing to divulge much on the new festivals but he did share this: “(They) will be unique and different . . . a nice addition to what we currently do on the lakefront.”
Without being more specific, he said the Labor Day weekend might be targeted for one of them.
New attractions and events should blend nicely with what the Kenosha area already offers, DuChene said, including the Dinosaur Discovery Museum, the Kenosha Public Museum, Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets, Wilmot Mountain, Bristol Renaissance Faire, and Jelly Belly, where warehouse tours are available.
“If we can bring more people into the area, it helps everyone,” DuChene said. “(Tourism) plays a role in economic development.
“The nicest thing about tourism in the Kenosha area is it really complements everyday living. You look at our event calendar, and there’s something to do just about every weekend.”
The Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has published a brochure, Fun 101, which lists 101 events families can enjoy. Some are free and none cost more than $10. Visitors can learn more at visitkenosha.com
This is the fourth in a six-part series on the economy. Thursday’s focus is on local business leaders’ perspective.
President of the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau
DuChene has been president of the bureau since 2007. Previously he served in various roles with the organization, including overseeing sports and group marketing programs. He serves on the Wisconsin Department of Tourism committees for the Joint Effort Marketing grant program and the Tourist Information Center grant program. He is a member of the Boys & Girls Club of Kenosha Board, the Kenosha Noon Optimist Club Board and the Pleasant Prairie Patriots Swim Team Booster Club Board, as well as on various event planning committees.
DuChene earned a bachelor of arts degree in general business from the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and is a member of the Parkside Athletic Hall of Fame for his collegiate wrestling accomplishments.