By Shane Nicholson
More and more tourists are coming to Illinois and the Rockford region, and they’re staying longer and spending more money.
That’s the word from Illinois Tourism Director Coy Jobe, who said Monday that more the 110 million domestic tourists visited Illinois in 2016, around 1 million more than in 2015.
And that growth has continued into 2017, according to the governor’s office. The first quarter of the year has seen a 7 percent uptick in tourism revenue in the Chicagoland area and a 4 percent rise in the rest of the state.
In the Rockford area, 2016 saw more than 76,000 additional visitors over 2015, said the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Over 7.6 million guests visited the region spending more than $350 million.
“These numbers show just how popular our museums and facilities are, not just for visitors but for our local residents, as well,” said RACVB President/CEO John Groh.
“We know tourism in our region is strong and vibrant and continues to see growth. The exciting part is that we haven’t peaked yet.”
The promising numbers for the state and the Rockford region came at the kickoff of National Travel and Tourism Week, with Gov. Bruce Rauner one of those celebrating the efforts of the state in welcoming new guests.
“Illinois is the greatest state in the nation,” he said. “We have so much to be proud of and so many reasons to invite our out-of-state friends to visit the Land of Lincoln.”
Groh said despite the local setback of the loss of the AirFest, the overall picture in the region was promising.
“We knew that without Rockford AirFest, one of our region’s signature events, our overall numbers would see a drop,” said Groh. “However, there is much to be happy about considering the strength of new and emerging events that have helped to fill that gap.”
And Groh added that RACVB and its partners are looking forward to still better times ahead.
“With new events and programs constantly being developed and with new developments and expansions at key sites and attractions – such as the expansion at Mercyhealth Sportscore Two and the development of the downtown hotel project – we are poised for growth in the coming years.”