More tourists are coming to the Land of Lincoln than before.
That’s the latest from the the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Office of Tourism, which on Monday announced record numbers for tourism in the state.
The state’s tourism industry in 2014 posted 109 million visitors, a 3.5 percent increase over the year before. That translated into $36 billion spent by tourists in travel expenses, including hotels, meals and fuel costs.
“These numbers are a true testament that the industry’s efforts to support and promote travel to Illinois are paying off year after year,” said Cory Jobe, director of the Illinois Office of Tourism.
Jobe spoke at McKendree University in Lebanon, part of a 12-stop tour around the state to share the latest statistics and economic impact derived from tourism. That includes job creation, revenue growth and new tourism initiatives.
Illinois South Tourism President and Chief Executive Officer Jo Kathmann tracks tourism in a 20-county area that includes the metro-east. She said Southern Illinois represents the largest territory of any convention and visitors bureau in the state
“We are thrilled with the recently announced tourism numbers and what it means for this area,” Kathmann said. “This leads to billions of dollars in revenue every year and employs thousands of people.”
Tourism’s economic impact in St. Clair and Madison counties has increased over the past two years. In St. Clair County, tourism generated more than $19 million in state tax receipts and $8.3 million in local taxes in 2014. More than $18 million in sales tax receipts and $6.5 million in local tax receipts were collected last year in Madison County.
Jobe also announced a new campaign to promote Illinois travel with a new bi-annual publication called “Enjoy,” which will also include digital outreach over social media. Another campaign will include a search for Illinois artisans and craftsmen, who will be the subject of short films and documentaries to be shared online.
“Fans told us things like, ‘I have to go to Illinois now,’ and ‘I love those pictures of Illinois. I live here and have never seen any of these places,’” he said. “Social media provides us the opportunity to be nimble and insert ourselves into real-time conversations.”
In the face of a state budgetary battle and potential shortfalls in funding, Jobe said the Illinois Office of Tourism is committed to enhancing travel across the state to create a positive economic impact through jobs, revenue and a better quality of life for all.
“It’s no secret that significant financial challenges lie ahead for Illinois and its state agencies,” he said. “We don’t yet really know what the scale of those challenges will be. But we do know that no matter what, together we will find the best use of our resources and think creatively to continue to push Illinois tourism forward.”
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 618-239-2526.