Rockford's Independent Newspaper

Local visitor spending tops $390M in 2018

Staff Report

ROCKFORD – Visitor spending totaled $392 million in the Rockford and Winnebago County communities last year, tourism officials reported.

The mark is a 2.1-percent increase from 2017’s total of $384 million. That spending generated visitor-industry employment income of $95 million and generated $30 million in state and local taxes.

The 10-year period between 2009 and 2018 shows visitor-related economic impact in Winnebago County growing 54 %; faster than all other major counties except Cook (Chicago, at 58%) and much faster than the set average of 41%. Major metropolitan counties that were used for comparison are Cook, DuPage, Champaign, McLean, Lake, Will, Peoria, Madison, St. Clair, Sangamon, Kane and Rock Island.

In addition to spending, visitors also generated increased funds for local and state tax coffers to use for core services such as police, fire and public works. In 2018, visitors paid $23.2 million in state and $6.8 million in local tax receipts (up 6.2% and 0.7%). Visitor expenditure, tax revenue and employment data are provided by the U.S. Travel Association and the Illinois Department of Commerce.

“Tourism is a strong economic driver locally and has caused a ripple effect throughout our community,” Jennifer Furst, RACVB board chair, said. “Based on reports and data analysis we can clearly see many businesses and organizations are thriving from successful tourism-related initiatives and events. I especially appreciate the correlation between visitor spending and how that helps put local people to work.”

The economic impact of tourism has grown rapidly in recent years, and the recent and coming investments in the community – including a new downtown hotel and conference center and a future casino gaming complex in Rockford – will fuel additional impact.

“I am pleased to see all the ways tourism has been a key contributor to the overall success of our community,” Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said. “Rockford area attractions, businesses and organizations have seen increased attendance and spending as visitors participate in various leisure activities, business events and sports tournaments. The work of the RACVB helps to boost our economy which allows us to create new job opportunities and welcome more people.”

RACVB President and CEO John Groh added: “More and more as we share the story of our region with potential customers and visitors, they are experiencing what our friends and neighbors know to be true – our region is on the rise and has a bright future. Investments made in marketing and promoting the region are working and returning results. The year over year growth we are seeing demonstrates that folks continue to choose the Rockford region to visit. We know this success can spur on additional growth as every visitor is a potential new resident or investor.”

In addition to growth in Winnebago County, the Illinois Office of Tourism reported both international and domestic travel expenditures grew to $41.7 billion in 2018, which is a $2 billion increase to the state’s economy over 2017. More than 117 million visitors came to Illinois in 2018 – the 8th consecutive year of record tourism growth in the state – contributing to an increase of visitor spending, tax revenue and local jobs.

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