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Visitor spending up 11.8 percent in Winnebago County
Posted By Brandon Reid On July 26, 2012 @ 2:11 pm In Happening Now, Local News | No Comments
Online Staff Report
According to new figures released by the State of Illinois, visitor spending in Winnebago County increased 11.8 percent in 2011, totaling more than $311 million. This is the first time expenditures have topped the $300 million mark since the pre-recession level of $300.6 million in 2007 and is the highest amount ever recorded.
The rate of growth in Winnebago County exceeded that of the state of Illinois and all of Rockford’s comparative markets. Visitor spending in Winnebago County went up 11.8 percent, while the state saw an 8.1 percent increase, and most of Rockford’s comparable markets increased at rates slower than the state average. Champaign saw visitor spending go up just 6.4 percent, while Springfield, in Sangamon County, saw a 6.7 percent increase. Winnebago County’s was the highest increase of all major metropolitan areas.
Tourism supported more than 2,620 jobs in Winnebago County in 2011, up 1.1 percent over 2010.
That’s just slightly below the state increase of 1.5 percent, and better than most of the comparative set, many of which saw a decrease in the number of tourism supported jobs. Only two counties in Rockford’s comparative set, Cook and Peoria, saw increases of greater than 2 percent.
Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB) Board Chairman Linda Heckert said: “RACVB exists to grow the region’s economy through tourism. It’s exciting to see visitor spending exceed pre-recession levels and out-pace growth at the state level. It means the tourism industry has recovered and is growing even stronger.”
The economic growth can be attributed to several factors. RACVB’s sales team continues to meet and exceed aggressive sales goals, booking nearly 95,000 future hotel room nights in FY11 and more than 102,000 in FY12.
Rockford region sites and attractions reported an increase in visitors in 2011. Significant investments in the Rockford region’s tourism product include the opening of the Nicholas Conservatory & Gardens, the recent expansion of the Discovery Center Museum and the Burpee Museum of Natural History, and the continued investment in downtown with Rockford City Market and Friday Night Flix.
Additionally, the third and fourth quarter of 2011 saw a surge in business travel as a result of the re-tooling of the Chrysler plant in Belvidere and the refueling at the Byron nuclear plant.
The growth in spending benefits local municipalities. Local tax revenue resulting from visitor spending in Winnebago County grew 8.5 percent, totaling $5.07 million in 2011. This increase was greater than the region’s comparative set and the state average of 4.9 percent.
RACVB President/CEO John Groh said: “This is money that wouldn’t exist in our community without visitors. When you invest in tourism, you import money. That money cycles through local restaurants, hotels and retail outlets, creating jobs and tax revenue. That is why it is important that we continue to grow the tourism product by investing in projects like the Reclaiming First sports plan. In this way, all residents of Winnebago County benefit from tourism.”
Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey (I) said: “The City of Rockford and our regional partners have worked hard to rebound from the recession. We’ve invested in the tourism industry, and now see the positive impact of visitor spending, with its resulting job growth and increased tax revenue. This helps further energize the local economy.”
The figures come from a report by D.K. Shifflet and Associates for the U.S. Travel Association, commissioned by the Illinois Office of Tourism, a state agency.
The RACVB is a private, non-profit organization that champions efforts to promote and further develop the Rockford region as an overnight visitor destination. RACVB generates positive economic impact for the community through investments in tourism marketing, sales, promotion and advocacy. Visit www.gorockford.com .
Posted July 26, 2012
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