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Berggren to lead McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau

CRYSTAL LAKE – The new head of the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau is working on ways to bring more out-of-town visitors to the area.

The bureau's board selected Jaki Berggren as the organization's executive director last month following the departure of longtime leader Cort Carlson.

Berggren, who had worked as the bureau's manager of group sales for three years, will be joined by incoming group sales manager Laura Witlox, who previously worked for the Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Berggren wants to build on the bureau's past successes and branch out into other sectors of the travel market – such as family and class reunions – to keep the region's hotel rooms full.

In recent years, the bureau has gained a toehold in the senior motorcoach market with attractions such as the Sanfillippo Estate in Barrington Hills – known for its pipe organ, salon carousel and collection of antique music machines – and the Bettendorf Castle in Fox River Grove.

The bureau brought more than 15 motorcoach tours to the county this year, up from four tours in 2010. Berggren hopes to bring in at least as many next year.

Fall and agritourism – pumpkin patches and apple orchards – are also big draws for visitors.

Going forward, Berggren will be updating the bureau's marketing campaign with online and mobile advertising and smartphone applications to attract younger visitors.

"We look to a banner year for tourism in McHenry County,” said Richard Kuranda, president of the bureau's board and executive director of the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake.

McHenry County tourism generated $205.26 million last year, a 6.6 percent increase from 2010, according to figures from the U.S. Travel Association. The county ranked 13th out of state's 102 counties in tourism dollars. By comparison, Kane County tourism generated $420.2 million in 2011, and Lake County – home to Six Flags Great America – totaled $1.13 billion.

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