Tourism spending up in 2012, figures show

Posted: Jul. 19, 2013 6:58 pm Updated: Aug. 9, 2013 11:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Reg Ankrom spent Friday morning giving a tour to a group of tourists from St. Louis at the John Wood Mansion.

The executive director of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County said while the mansion itself is typically off the beaten path, there a certain tourists who seek it out.

"We do have people from outside the area who literally look for historic locations and come to them for visits," Ankrom said. "These folks that we had (Friday) simply had Googled ‘history' and ‘Illinois' and reached us through the Internet."

Ankrom said the historical society saw more visitors in 2012 from its exhibit that focused on the men from Adams County who fought in the Battle of Shiloh during the Civil War.

"I know the first person who arrived on the day that it opened was from St. Louis, and he gotten information from a newspaper there," he said.

Tourism is a big industry in West-Central Illinois. It generated $141 million in spending in Adams, Pike and Hancock counties in 2012, and supported 1,000 jobs.

Holly Cain, executive director of the Quincy Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she thinks tourism has been on the rebound the past two years after the Great Recession forced many people to curtail travel nationwide.

Figures show that $92.59 million was spent on tourism-related activities in Adams County last year, an increase of 3 percent. Hancock County reported $25.24 million in spending, a 0.5 percent increase, and Pike County reported $23.17 million, a 4 percent hike.

Cain said the bureau has worked hard to use marketing money to attract leisure travelers to the region.

"We try to do different markets in trying to reach out further into a national audience," she said.

"I think we're seeing a nice business rebound in travelers from the recession, and when people travel for business, we know they do leisure things as well. They make it both business and fun, so we do see a lot of people here at the visitors center coming in for business."

Ankrom said the John Wood Mansion has probably attracted fewer people from outside the area this year, although he pointed out that about 150 people attended the chautauqua in June that focused on former U.S. Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, who lived in Quincy for a time.

"We focus pretty much on Quincy and Adams County," he said. "I think the draw would be local more than statewide, although the Shiloh exhibit did indicate that we have opportunities beyond just our county borders."

The bureau continues to work to bring new events to the area and also is developing two new driving tours and a new culinary guide.

The "13 Off the Record" driving tour and an Underground Railroad tour are both in the works.

"This ‘13 Off the Record' will be kind of fun," Cain said. "Thirteen intriguing characters from our Quincy area. There's more to come on that. It's in the works."