Illinois Governors Conference on Tourism

Last week, I attended the Illinois Governors Conference on Tourism, a three-day meeting for tourism professionals who work at hotels, restaurants, tour companies, transportation companies, and convention and visitors bureaus. We get updates on anything and everything in Illinois Tourism, and speakers often try to stress that we must not forget what’s outside of Chicago. As with any state with a major city, the tourism seems to revolve around the grand metropolis. This was my second year at the Illinois Governors Conference, and again I found that though I’m one of few tour operators that attend, it’s a valuable experience for both professional and personal reasons.

Why Attend the Illinois Governors Conference?

logo for brand america illinois governors conference

Professionally, I got to attend meetings that get my entrepreneurial wheels turning. Particularly I enjoyed the lively presentation of Tribeca Flashpoint Academy’s CEO Howard Tullman. As a public speaker myself, I’m particularly sensitive to when people are, or aren’t, comfortable in front of the room, and especially if they don’t manifest sincerity in the tone of their voice and body language. Mr. Tullman is a pro. And on top of being a good speaker, he shared really helpful concepts in social media.

I like to think that I’m on top of trends in social media, which of course at any of these events is all the buzz. But wow – did you know that Americans spend more time on Facebook than Google, Wikipedia and a bunch of other sites combined? And we’ve been pouring so much more energy into Twitter. And how will mobile technology enhance our everyday lives in ways we haven’t yet imagined? He shared tips on how to avoid social media blunders.

(p.s. in poking around Tullman’s website I found an interesting Tribune article that discusses the blurring lines between for-profit and non-profit businesses, such as with yours truly, Chicago Detours. We are very much in that grey zone!)

Big Ideas for Illinois Tourism

Another speaker at the Illinois Governors Conference was Chris Perkins of Brand USA, who gave a helpful “show and tell” of the United States’ new campaign to promote tourism internationally (new website launched in November, 2011). It’s about time! The U.S. has been lagging behind just about every developed country with no department dedicated to marketing to other countries. It’s almostlike we’ve just been arrogantly sitting around, just assuming foreigners will come to us because we’re “America.”

I’m impressed by the clean website design for, which probably appeals to a more international crowd. Check out their promotional video. Note their tag: “Awesome possibilities.” Is this because “awesome” has been imported into slang across the world?

Don’t you love the 1960s sparkle pink decor of the Convention Center in Rosemont Rosemont Convention Center illinois governors conference(pictured)? So you may be wondering then, what are these “personal” reasons why I like going to the Conference? Well for one, it’s fun to go out to Rosemont. It’s a 30-minute train ride for me, but it feels like I’m on vacation. And two, I love learning about intriguing places to visit in Illinois – outside of the Chicago. I’ll address that in the next blog post – you’ll just have to wait in anticipation.

— Amanda Scotese, Executive Director


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Private Tour Coordinator and Tour Guide

There is no shortage of things to discover in Chicago—I love being an urban explorer and uncovering its hidden places. I have an MA in Public History from Loyola University Chicago, and I have worked as a museum educator and kindergarten teacher. My desire to learn new things fuels my passion for educating others, which I get to experience every day as a Chicago tour guide. I live in the northern neighborhood of Rogers Park.

“Our guide Ellen was exceptional and gifted with a great personal touch.”


Tour Guide

Whether you are a first-time visitor or a lifelong resident, the vibrant history and modern majesty of Chicago never ceases to amaze. I’m a graduate of Columbia College with an M.A. in Interdisciplinary Art. I’ve worked for many years as an educator at City Colleges of Chicago. As tour guide at Chicago Detours, I integrate my enthusiasm for culture and architecture with my passion as an educator. West Town/Noble Square area is home for me.

“Jen was a perfect storyteller and kept us spellbound for hours.”


Tour Guide

With our Chicago neighborhoods, vibrant cultural institutions and nearly two centuries of larger-than-life stories, there’s never a dull moment here! I’m a fifth generation Chicagoan and a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. In addition to guiding tours, I’m a creative writer and amateur genealogist. I also enjoy the city’s dynamic theater scene. You can also read overlooked stories from 19th-century newspapers on my “Second Glance History” blog. I live in River North.


Tour Guide

Chicago is unique as it always evolves into the future while holding on to the past. I’m fascinated by how people latch on to old architecture but happily pave over others. My background is in theater and performance and I’ve been a tour guide here for more than 10 years. Currently I’m finishing my Master’s in Public History at Loyola University because I love to teach the history of this scrappy city. I’m in the Edgewater neighborhood.


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

Chicago’s history is so fascinating, you could spend a lifetime uncovering its secrets…I’m willing to give it a try! I have an M.A. in US History from the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and then pursued doctoral studies in Urban History at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I love to learn new aspects of Chicago’s rich history and then share my knowledge as a tour guide with Chicago Detours. I live in Ravenswood.

“Marie was a bubbling fountain of information and contagious enthusiasm.”


Operations Coordinator and Tour Guide

As a fourth generation Chicagoan, I have been living and loving Chicago by bike, on foot, public transit or automobile. I am a graduate of UIC where through the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, began my eagerness to understand the nature, history and impacts of urban planning and development. It is incredibly rewarding to give back to this wonderful city by helping out in the office of Chicago Detours. I live in the incredibly diverse neighborhood of Albany Park.
“Sonny was extremely knowledgeable about all things Chi-town.”
Wade K


Content Manager and Tour Guide

Chicago has so many neighborhoods, buildings, and by-ways that it’s hard to go long without seeing something new, or something familiar from a new angle. I studied Cinema History for my M.A. from the University of Chicago. I’ve worked as a culture writer for various publications and as an educator of the humanities at the City Colleges of Chicago. I’m thrilled to share my love of this city’s busy past and unique architectural spaces with Chicago Detours. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of Lincoln Park.

“Alex was fascinating to listen to. He clearly knows his history and it shows.”
Katie K

Amanda Scotese

Executive Director and Tour Guide

I’m an interpreter of personal stories from the past and the city’s landscape. I love to imagine what originally happened inside old unmarked buildings, and what forces have shaped their design. I studied Chicago history, architectural history, and anything Chicago-related through my M.A. in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. My love for stories was enriched by my B.A. in Literature from the University of Michigan. I’ve written travel articles for publications like Rick Steves’ Italy best-selling travel guides, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and The Chicago Food Encyclopedia. I live in the Chicago neighborhood of West Avondale.
“You can TELL Amanda is hyper-passionate about doing the research and getting the story that nobody’s heard before.”
Shelby F

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