Tourism cuts can hurt Rockford economy

By Cindy S. Hindes, CMD

On behalf of the more than 130 retail establishments and their staffs at CherryVale Mall, CBL & Associates Properties, Inc., the management company and owner of CherryVale Mall expresses its concern over the proposed state tourism budget cut of 50 percent for fiscal year 2005 by Governor Rod Blagojevich and the state Legislature.

The proposed tourism budget cut is extremely distressful to a local economy (Rockford MSA) which has been devastated by the loss of more than 3,300 jobs over the past year and unemployment ranging from 8 to 9 percent for the Rockford MSA* (Boone, Ogle and Winnebago counties) and 10 percent plus for the city of Rockford. The potential loss statewide of an additional 30,000 jobs related to tourism will have a trickle-down effect that will have far-reaching implications for a state already hard hit by the recession.

Tourism supports many industries, including hotels, restaurants, entertainment/recreation venues, gas and rental car companies, retail establishments, etc. The potential impact of the proposed tourism budget cuts will weaken an already shaky Illinois economy and will result in the potential loss of $109.4 million in state tax revenue from the above industries. The potential impact, by industry, of the state tourism budget cut could result in:

u $395.5 million loss in hotel sales;

u $514 million loss in restaurant sales;

u $408 million loss in gas and rental car sales;

u $175.9 million loss in retail sales.

In Illinois, tourism employs one in 10 jobs, is the only industry in all 102 Illinois counties, and generates $1.5 billion annually in state and local taxes. The proposed $25 million reduction in the state tourism budget will have a negative impact on how the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau promotes the area’s assets—its fine museums, sports venues, natural resources, etc.—resulting in fewer visitors, lower hotel occupancy rates, less retail, gas, rental car, and restaurant sales, and fewer admissions to entertainment, cultural and recreational venues.

The merchants at CherryVale Mall know that the efforts by the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, partnering with local venues, does produce measurable results in visitor-generated sales. Throughout the year, we see many youth sports teams, still in uniform, shopping and spending money locally in our stores. Although the sports tournament segment is just one example of how tourism impacts our local market, there are many more visitors, in everyday street clothes, who are spending their disposable dollars in our stores, restaurants, gas stations, hotels, entertainment venues, etc.

I urge everyone who has an active interest in trying to help turn around Illinois’ economy to write letters to Governor Blagojevich and the state’s legislators asking them to reconsider the $25 million cut to the state’s tourism budget. It’s grassroots efforts such as this that can make a difference!

* Metropolitan Statistical Area

Cindy S. Hindes is a Certified Marketing Director at CherryVale.

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!