I was speaking with a young banker at a recent networking event, when I asked him, “How long have you been in the hospitality industry?”
He stared at me for a second, and said, “I've been in banking my whole career.”
I asked, “Does your bank gives out car loans?” He nodded “Credit cards?”
“Of course,” he said.
I then asked, “Do families and business professionals who use those credit cards ever rent hotel rooms or purchase meals when they travel?” He silently nodded as I continued.
“One in 10 people in Illinois work directly or indirectly in the hospitality industry. Do you think they need a mortgage for a home or a loan for a new car from your bank?”
“Oh,” he remarked, “I never thought about it that way.”
“So how long have you been involved in the hospitality industry?” I asked again.
He straightened up, and said with a smile, “I guess I've been in the hospitality industry my whole life.”
We might not know it, but tourism impacts everyone.
Illinois residents save $1,100 in taxes every year because of visitor expenditures. In 2011, $31.8 billion in revenue was generated by visitor spending and $2.3 billion was collected as part of state and local tax revenues.
This is a consistent source of revenue that comes from outside visitors. Those revenues helped pave roads, rebuilt bridges and were reinvested back into tourism promotion efforts. Our elected leaders recognize tourism’s return on investment and continue to support tourism funding. For every dollar spent on tourism promotion, $6 comes back in state and local tax revenue.
Tourism is a job creator. There are 291,990 residents employed directly in the tourism industry. In the bigger picture, one in 10 jobs in Illinois is related to tourism and these are jobs that cannot be outsourced. The continuing investment guarantees the continued employment of Illinois residents.
Tourism is essential for continuing economic development in Illinois. In the past year, more than $35 million has been invested to expand or renovate hotels in the Chicago Southland. Moving forward, there is more investment on the horizon in the region in developing and renovating hotel properties.
Illinois hosted more than 93.3 million visitors in 2011, breaking the record set in 2006. We've seen the same increases. According to Smith Travel Research, the industry standard for hospitality research, hotel occupancy is up 10 percent, as are general hotel revenues.
The state of tourism in the Chicago Southland and Illinois is strong, and getting stronger every day.
We are continuing to position the Chicago Southland as an affordable, convenient destination for everything from conventions to sporting events and family getaways. Our continuing partnership with our 62 municipalities and 33 area chambers of commerce will help drive economic impact through travel and tourism.
We are continuing to move forward with a new five-year strategic plan for the Chicago Southland. When completed, there will be a marked improvement in customer experience, an increase in business for our members and an increase in tax revenues for the Chicago Southland municipalities as these goals are achieved over the next five years.
We can't wait to tell you more and hope you will help us reach these goals when the plan is fully presented in January.
Jim Garrett is president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention and Visitors Bureau. The opinions are the writer's.