By DOUG WILSON
Herald-Whig Senior Writer
Tourists spent $137 million in Adams, Pike and Hancock counties during 2011, according to the Illinois Office of Tourism.
Holly Cain, executive director of the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Adams County's tourism spending hit $89 million, up 7 percent; Hancock County reported $25 million in tourism spending, up 5 percent; and Pike County reported $22 million, up 6 percent.
"This is the largest growth we've seen from one year to another. It was up $8 million for the three counties," Cain said.
Statewide tourism spending set a record of $31.8 billion for the year, up 8.4 percent from 2010, according to the U.S. Travel Association. A record 93.3 million visitors came to Illinois, representing a 10 percent increase over 2010. The previous record for tourists was 91 million in 2006. The Illinois travel industry reports 291,990 jobs.
Jan Kostner, deputy director of the Office of Tourism, said the strong tourism numbers mark the industry's return to pre-recession levels.
"We continue to develop innovative ways to encourage visitors to travel to Illinois, building on the growth that points to the overall recovery of the tourism industry," Kostner said.
Tourism supports an estimated 1,010 jobs in the three-county area, with a payroll of $27.49 million, according to the Office of Tourism. Visitors also generated $7.91 million in state sales taxes and $4.93 million in local sales taxes within the three counties.
"Quincy naturally is a strong attraction because of its outstanding architecture, history and value. We have focused specifically on our given assets to build momentum and advertising," said QACVB Marketing Manager Lori Tuttle.
The local bureau's advertising budget doubled between 2008 and 2011. That has allowed promotions such as a half-page advertisement in Preservation Magazine.
Cain said Quincy's national reputation for significant architecture is reflected in the 3665STRONG campaign. It gets its name from the 3,665 buildings in Quincy listed in the National Register. The Preservation ad, billboards in Missouri, regional ads and social media exposure all mention the 3665STRONG promotion.
Another local tourism campaign involves the 50/50CHALLENGE in the three-county area. A brochure has been printed, touting the 50 Great Things to See & Do in the region. Visitors and residents are challenged to visit all 50 sites within 50 days for a chance at a weekend getaway to Chicago.
"Tourism is a leading economic force for our communities and the state of Illinois," Cain said.
Local hoteliers have seen the increase in visitors and room nights. The city and county hotel/motel tax receipts were up more that $31,000 through May of this year. That is up 11 percent from the same months in 2011.