Despite flooding, tourism flourishes in 2019

Tourism created strong economic growth throughout the Great Rivers & Routes six-county region in 2019 mirroring growth across the state of Illinois, according to early reports from the Illinois Department of Commerce’s Office of Tourism. 

Despite record flooding along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers in 2019, visitors flocked to the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau region of Madison, Jersey, Calhoun, Macoupin, Montgomery and Greene counties. Visitors spent $718.5 million in 2019 an increase of 3.3 percent over 2018. The region received local tax receipts of $19.37 million from visitor spending in 2019 compared to $18.64 million in 2018. That is a 3.9 percent increase. The only county noting a decline in revenues was Jersey County because of the impact of river flooding. Madison County had a 5.6 percent increase in local tax receipts and Calhoun County reported a 7.8 percent increase in local tax receipts from visitor spending.

The state of Illinois reported domestic and international traveler spending at $43.1 billion, an increase of $1.3 billion over the same period in 2018. In addition, the Illinois tourism industry created over 1,800 new jobs in 2019. The state saw an overall jump in state and local tax revenue from visitor spending of 7.7 percent.

Job growth climbed slightly in the Great Rivers & Routes region, which celebrates a total of 5,090 full-time jobs in the tourism sector.

“These numbers are encouraging and bittersweet. They show how vital tourism is to the local economy and how COVID impacted us in 2020,” said Barbara Strack, interim CEO of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau. “Our tourism sector is key to the continued economic growth of our region. Last year’s growth shows the razor-sharp focus of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau and how what we do helps drive in new visitors.”

Fast facts about Illinois Tourism in 2019:

  • Illinois welcomed 120.4 million visitors
  • Illinois had 5.1 percent increase in domestic travelers, well above the national growth rate of 2 percent.
  • Downstate travel in Illinois increased by 5.6 percent, fueled by a strong leisure tourism increase of 6 percent.
  • “Last year’s numbers illustrate just how impactful tourism is for boosting the state’s economy,” said Karla Flannery, deputy director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. “While it’s unrealistic to expect the same results in 2020, we are looking forward to safely welcoming travelers back to Illinois and rebuilding our industry – while encouraging Illinois residents to use public health precautions in resuming local travel to any one of our iconic attractions found right here at home.”

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