EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Visitors economy produces value, jobs

2014-05-04T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD: Visitors economy produces value, jobsBy Jim Garrett nwitimes.com
May 04, 2014 12:00 am  • 

While talking recently with a local hotel manager, we discussed the challenges facing the travel and tourism industry. There were the obvious ones like the economy and the overall business climate.

One hurdle we face specifically as a destination management organization is showing the value tourism has on communities all over the Chicago Southland and Illinois.

Tourism brings outside dollars into our region through the over 101 million visitors welcomed by Illinois, which drives demand for jobs and tax revenue while creating economic impact at a very local level.

The average taxpayer saves about $1,100 annually because of tax revenues created by tourism. In Illinois, one in 10 jobs is directly or indirectly supported by travel expenditures, and that number improves to one in 9 nationwide. The hospitality industry continues to grow and create a variety of new jobs.

The travel effect starts in our 65-plus hotels in the Chicago Southland. Continuing the five-year upward trend, occupancy was up over 4 percent again this year. Over 1.28 million hotel rooms were sold in 2013 as the CVB expanded its advertising reach with new sales and leisure campaigns targeting key markets.

The Chicago Southland continues to create and update facilities and events. The renovated softball fields in Midlothian have been a huge success and are attracting attention from all over the Midwest. New craft breweries and distilleries in the villages of Lansing, Tinley Park, Midlothian and Frankfort are attracting beer and spirit enthusiasts from all over the region.

The Prairie State College Anime Club will host Maneki Neko Con, an anime/sci-fi convention that will attract sci-fi devotees to the Matteson Community Center in October.

The upcoming Midwest Wizard of Oz Festival in September is a prime opportunity to bring many Oz fans and families together to Orland Park. The festival will have a significant impact on not only Orland Park, but also the region as a whole.

Youth and amateur sports is one of the many drivers where you can clearly see the travel effect. Recently, 2,500 competitors and spectators representing 20 states traveled to the Ho-Chunk Sports Complex in Lynwood for the American Taekwondo Association’s Class “A” event.

Staying in Lansing hotels, eating in regional restaurants, buying gas and shopping at local stores, the event generated an estimated economic impact of nearly $400,000.

That’s new money coming into the region that wouldn't have been there if not for the hard work of the CVB attracting sporting events like the Class “A” event and others to our region.

We are always reaching for the next new event or tournament; because of that, we are excited to welcome the Illinois Sports Huddle that will bring 20+ sports event planners to DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago-Alsip this June.

You can define value in a variety of ways. For the hospitality industry, we define value as jobs tax revenue for our municipalities and economic impact for the region.

The visitor economy is vibrant in the Chicago Southland and Illinois, and continues to produce value and improve the quality of life for everyone.

Jim Garrett is president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. The opinions are the writer's.

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