International and domestic tourists spent $41.7 billion in Illinois in 2018, a $2 billion boost to the state’s economy, according to numbers released by the Illinois Office of Tourism. More than 117 million visitors came to Illinois in 2018 – the 8th consecutive year of record tourism growth in the state.
The Heritage Corridor contributed to the state’s added economic domestic growth, with $1.1 billion in travel expenditures, a 3.8% increase, and $25 million in local tax revenue, a 2% increase. More than 5,200 new jobs were created across the state in 2018 as a result of visitor spending, with 100 of them along the corridor that includes Morris, Joliet, Seneca, Marseilles, Ottawa, and LaSalle.
In Grundy County, travel expenditures were up more than 4% in 2018, at a total of $80.34 million. Those visitors added $1.49 million to local tax revenue, a 2.7% increase over the previous year.
It's good news for Grundy County residents and business owners.
"We have so much to offer throughout the county for visitors from our state parks to our one-of-a-kind shops," said Christina Van Yperen, President & CEO of the Grundy Area Chamber of Commerce. "With a rise in tourism our local businesses are being supported by more than just our residents. An increase in spending locally allows for our business owners and municipalities to reinvest in our communities creating an even better place to live, work and play."
Van Yperen noted that local business owners, community organizations and municipalities put together great events to attract visitors to the area, including Cruise Night in Morris and last month's Liberty Arts Festival. And, she noted, for local business owners, it's a chance to cash in.
"When a community event is being held near your business’s location do something to jump on board to enrich the event — a coupon for event participants or a lunch special around the event theme or even just a sign or social media post saying welcome visitors," she said.
Along the Heritage Corridor, increased availability for tourism is making a mark.
"Tourism is all about experiences that you typically wouldn't take part of in your everyday life," said Bob Navarro, President & CEO of the Heritage Corridor Convention and Visitors Bureau. "The I&M Canal and canal towns like Morris, Joliet and Ottawa offer you a chance go through nostalgic cities and downtowns... and these areas blend the nostalgic landscape with modern trends."
Navarro said the increase in visitors and economic impact is due to new attractions, restaurants and events in the area staying up-to-date on trends, which brings returning visitors to the area year after year. Over the past 10 years, domestic travel to Illinois has increased by 26 million visitors.
In June, Illinois Tourism rolled out its new advertising and marketing campaign that will leverage its tag line, “Are you Up for Amazing?” to spotlight new Illinois experiences.
The Illinois travel and tourism industry supported a total 342,300 jobs in 2018.
The Grundy Area Chamber of Commerce offers maps, guides and local business information for visitors in each of its three locations, Morris, Minooka, and Coal City.