TOURISTS spent more than $137 million in three Western Illinois counties during 2011, supporting more than 1,000 jobs and boosting the local economy in ways that often go unrecognized.
The Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau's annual report indicates there was a 6 percent increase in regional tourism last year. Illinois Office of Tourism statistics indicate that Adams County had tourism spending of $89.77 million. Hancock County had $25.12 million and Pike County reported $22.19 million.
That's a lot of money spent at motels, restaurants, shops and other businesses. There's nothing that makes those dollars inferior to dollars spent in other economic sectors.
Tourism revenue is a necessary part of the local economy, albeit smaller than the retail, manufacturing and agricultural sectors. Tourism sometimes gets overlooked due to its variable nature, but the 6 percent increase last year represented greater growth than for most other parts of the economy.
Holly Cain, executive director of the local convention and visitor's bureau, said local efforts have focused more on one- and two-day trips that are meant to attract day trippers.
"People maybe aren't saving up or can't afford that weeklong or two-week vacation, but they are still enjoying travel closer to home," Cain said.
Long-time events such as the Early Tin Dusters Color Run bring antique and classic vehicle enthusiasts back to Quincy year after year. New events such as a 5-mile kayak race and the Great River Grape Escape and Eagle Days also show promise.
Western Illinois has much to offer tourists and travelers. Quincy has numerous Abraham Lincoln sites, architectural gems and museums. Hancock County has several Mormon sites. Pike County has hunting lodges and its own Lincoln sites.
Travel is expected to rise as the national economy gains momentum. Local and state tourism efforts are directed at bringing some of those travel and tourist dollars to this region.
A state grant worth $108,000 in the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau was a wise investment. Not only did it help attract millions of dollars, it also gave this region a chance to put its best foot forward.