WE’RE READY, WHEN YOU ARE! – Exclusive Q&A with Visit Kenosha President Dennis Duchene

WE’RE READY, WHEN YOU ARE! – Exclusive Q&A with Visit Kenosha President Dennis Duchene

The Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau provides travel information for visitors in Kenosha County Wisconsin. We sit down with President Dennis Duchene for this exclusive Q&A.

Q. What does the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau do?
A. The Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (KACVB) was established in 1986 with the express purpose of increasing visitor appreciation of and spending in Kenosha County, thus improving the economy of the region. We promote the Kenosha Area as a fun, friendly, and affordable overnight tourism destination to individuals, groups and businesses throughout the world. Short answer – we convince people that Kenosha is a cool place to visit for a day, weekend, or extended trip.

Q. Can you tell us what a day in the life of being president of Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau is like?

A. Every day is different. Especially this year. As President of this non-profit organization my day could include meetings in Madison talking about important legislation related to travel and tourism, or meetings with local elected officials like our Mayor talking about special events and development of attractions in our area. Other days the job includes things like putting up no parking signs for a marathon course, handing out Visitor Guides at a festival, helping staff stuff hundreds of welcome bags, or even vacuuming the office.

Q. How has COVID and the civil unrest in Kenosha affected your day to day operations?
A. COVID-19 has impacted every industry differently, but has had obvious impacts on hospitality and tourism. People just aren’t able or willing to go places as freely. We are working twice as hard to encourage people to do what they are able, when they are able, and when they feel comfortable. The same is true for Civil Unrest. Our I-94 Visitor Information Center at Hwy 165 and I-94/41 is open to serve visitors to our area and welcome travelers to Wisconsin. Our Downtown office remains closed to the public at this time, but our team that is based downtown continues to work on administrative functions like keeping our website up to date, creating new blog content, preparing our Fun 101 list, working with media and travel writer contacts, sharing information via Social Media, helping sports planners still hosting events in our community, and sending out visitor guides. Our services have not stopped – like everyone else, we have just adapted to streamline our efforts and keep everyone as safe as possible.

Q.What are some concessions you have had to make going into 2021?
A. We’ve adjusted some of our plans like everyone else. The biggest is probably related to our Visitors Guide. With things being shut down for part of 2020 and travel being limited, we had a surplus of our beautiful 2020 Visitor Guides. Rather than waste the publication and put a strain on our partners marketing dollars, we decided to continue to use this guide into the new year. It was the financially and eco-friendly thing to do for everyone. We have made all important updates to our website to note any changes that have come since the guide was printed. Also, we adjusted Fun 101 to be a digital publication for this Fall and Winter including COVID-Friendly items that aren’t limited to the usual $10 cap. Many are still FREE! We are just being flexible and staying on top of our Tourism Partners’ needs. The most important thing we are doing is helping share information.

Q.What do you love about Kenosha?
A. What’s not to love? Our community is perfectly situated between two major metropolitan areas. We have access to all the great parts of big cities, but maintain a small town charm here at home. Add to that our great location along a beautiful Great Lake with nearly 90% of the shoreline being publicly accessible. There are dozens of parks with amenities for sports or leisurely play. Our locally owned restaurants offer cuisine unlike any other, and make us a foodie destination. Also, we have an abundance of museums that are some of the best I’ve seen in their class. Don’t forget events! In a normal year, we have events nearly every day of the week – and nearly all of them are FREE to attend. Like I always say, this is a “Great place to live, work, play and VISIT!”

Q. What sets Kenosha as a destination apart from other cities?
A. The People. We hear over and over from visitors that our community is a friendly place. Kenosha makes people feel at home. That is something everyone can be proud of – store clerks, museum volunteers, housekeepers at hotels, waitstaff at restaurants, and local residents out walking at the lakefront – everyone here seems to help make our community a very inviting place. That’s probably the reason we get repeat visitors and the top referral source for travel is Friends and Family. Once people come to Kenosha, they are very impressed.

Q. What’s new in Kenosha?
A. The Apis Hotel & Restaurant recently opened the restaurant portion of their venue. In addition to being a vision out of a magazine in terms of interior design, the food is Instagram-worthy, too. I was recently there with a small group and we were able to reserve the mezzanine area for a private gathering for physical distancing and safety. It was a great experience. The Down Town’R Saloon had their Grand Opening on the day of the original shut down this past spring. They are making strides – serving up awesome ribs, tex-mex food, and fantastic cocktails. El Camino Kitchen, by Roots Hospitality Group, is a fusion concept offering everything from tacos and margaritas to craft beer and salads. If you love Waterfront Warehouse and La Fogata, you’ll enjoy El Camino. Kenosha Public Markets launched their inaugural season this summer. They weren’t kidding when they said they were going to offer a “new way to market” – the online ordering and curbside pick-up have been very popular during the pandemic! Be sure to check them out at their Indoor location this winter, or try the KPM2Go Online Shopping option. The former Barden’s building is full of activity again. Upper East has opened on the second floor. This is an urban wedding and events venue owned by Culinary Infusion, Inc. On the first floor is the new location of PUBLIC Craft Brewing Co. The larger space allows the craft brewery to operate a restaurant and have five times the brewing capacity. That’s a lot of new things considering we are in the middle of a global pandemic and local civil unrest.

Q. How does the Kenosha Area Convention & Visitors Bureau work with other organizations?
A. The KACVB is a bit different than other organizations in that our audience is primarily outside the community. We are usually talking to people from Illinois, Western Wisconsin, Eastern Iowa, Northwest Indiana, and beyond. Other organizations in our area usually are talking to residents. We also work pretty far in advance in our promotions – we have to start with announcements and campaigns early to give visitors time to plan a trip. That being said, we do work with other groups on events, fundraisers, community development, and projects in the area.

Q. How is the Kenosha Area Convention and Visitors Bureau funded?
A. Our operating budget is funded by the Transient Occupancy Tax – commonly known as room tax – which is paid by consumers who rent hotel rooms in municipalities that have adopted a room tax ordinance. The KACVB is the room tax designee for the City of Kenosha, Village of Bristol, and Town of Wheatland.  

Q. What are some of the advantages of using the KACVB?
A. Visitors Bureaus are a great resource for travelers, but also local residents. The biggest tool we provide is access to useful information – an insider’s guide, if you will. We make it our business to know businesses as if they were our own. We know the owners, the staff, the products, the menu. We have the scoop on coupons, upcoming sales, special events, and fun facts. Chances are you’ll learn something from us even if you’ve lived here your whole life – or at the very least, we’ll let you know the next time alocal shop is having a big sale, or when Big Star is opening for the season

Q. How does a business get involved with the KAVCB?
A. Businesses that have something to offer visitors to our area (restaurants, shops, attractions, hotels, and personalservices) are what we refer to as our Tourism Partners. If a business is interested in becoming a Tourism Partner, they can contact our Marketing Director, Laura Tyunaitis by reaching out to us at 262-654-7307 or info@visitkenosha.com.

Form more on Visit Kenosha

Q&A by Donny Stancato
Photo provided by Visit kenosha
(This article first appeared in the 11/5/20 issue of the Smart Reader publication)
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