By: Dan Krankeola, President and CEO of ILLINOISouth Tourism
Here in Illinois – despite our well-publicized budget challenges – tourism is proving itself both steadfast and stronger than ever: Tourism is Illinois’ second leading industry and continues to provide value not only to our visitors but to our communities as well.
The Illinois Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism (IOT), announced their most recent numbers indicating the tourism industry in Illinois achieved continued growth in 2016. Illinois welcomed an additional one million visitors than 2015 (110 million total domestic visitors.) Domestic Travelers expenditures – the total amount of money travelers spent during their time in Illinois – topped $35 billion, a 1.8 percent increase from 2015. In addition, the industry created over 9,600 new jobs in 2016. The Illinois Office of Tourism directly supports the travel industry by promoting visitor travel both domestically and internationally, to help grow the tourism industry throughout the state. The Illinois Office of Tourism is funded by a percentage of the state’s hotel motel tax revenue.
ILLINOISouth Tourism, located in Swansea, is the sales and marketing arm for 22 Illinois counties and assists and promotes a regional tourism industry that supports over 8,200 jobs. 2015 travel expenditures here topped $1.28 billion (up 2.5% over 2014), while local tax revenue from tourism reached $30 million (5.2% increase over 2014). For every marketing dollar spent through grant funds, a $6.00 ROI is achieved. (County economic numbers have yet to be received for 2016.)
“The Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, an economic development corporation, Board Members who represent over 200 senior leaders in the area recognize and truly value the robust tourism in Southwestern Illinois. The council works to unite business, industry, government, education and labor for economic growth in the region,” said Ronda Sauget, Executive Director of the Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois.
The tourism industry in ILLINOISouth remains strong as we continue to promote our various attractions, museums, historic sites, restaurants/shops and outdoor recreational facilities. Our continued focus to attract new visitors to the area as well as repeat travelers, supports both our local communities and Illinois’ economic growth.
In addition to producing three seasonal and one annual publication and maintaining the website ILLINOISouth.org, ILLINOISouth Tourism expects to see continued growth and evolution as tourism promotion flourishes with the increased focus on social media. Utilizing platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to promote regional tourism is exponential and at most everyone’s fingertips. The ability to promote festivals and events 5-7 days prior, assures a broader promotional coverage which increases visitor attendance and expenditures. In addition, the Bureau’s mobile-responsive website assures instant interactive tourism information, a searchable online calendar and showcases all there is to enjoy in ILLINOISouth.
To learn what fun things are happening just outside your door in ILLINOISouth, log onto: www.illinoisouth.org, call: (618) 257-1488; or email: info@ILLINOISouth.org.