To The Herald-Whig:
This time of year people across the country and the world are making plans for summer travel, and it is essential that Illinois destinations and attractions, like those here in Quincy, remain top of mind.
We continue to increase our tourism marketing budget in Quincy, and in 2016, our local hotel tax revenue hit a record $1 million, up $15,576 from the previous year. We've also been able to assist the Oakley-Lindsay Center with a new Quincy tourism grant to leverage additional dollars for starting new tourism events that generate room nights. All of these initiatives will produce a greater return in visitor spending and sustain jobs in the future.
We saw the reverse on the state level once funding for marketing efforts was suspended. For instance, Illinois leisure travel was up 3.1 percent during the first six months of 2015, when the state of Illinois was proactively marketing itself as a travel destination. Unfortunately, funding for those efforts was cut off by the second half of the year, and by the end of 2015, leisure travel was only up by 1.3 percent.
Hotel tax revenue also saw a decline during that time, experiencing only a 2.6 percent growth in 2016 -- Illinois' lowest growth in years. The majority of that growth came during the last few months of the year, when we were once again able to ramp up marketing efforts. By that point, we had our work cut out for us, as we were well behind the national hotel tax revenue growth rate of 4.8 percent.
Luckily, Illinois destinations, events and attractions are uniquely positioned to meet a growing demand for dynamic and immersive travel.
Research shows that 78 percent of millennials today are looking to learn new things while traveling, and Quincy's scenic Mississippi River vistas, bike-friendly downtown, burgeoning culinary scene and historic architecture offer visitors plenty of opportunities to do just that.
Tourism marketing is a worthwhile investment. In Illinois, the travel industry has created jobs at a faster rate than the rest of the state's employers for more than a decade. Tourism also saves the average Illinois household $1,300 in taxes each year.
With continued support for tourism marketing efforts, the city of Quincy can continue improving its attractions, producing exciting events and drawing in visitors who will directly impact our local economy and the quality of life for our residents.
Quincy Area Convention ?and Visitors Bureau