The week of May 8-14 marks National Travel and Tourism Week in the United States. Tourism's impact on the national, state and local economies cannot be understated, and the jobs the travel and tourism industries provide the American work force are substantial.
Travel and tourism is one of America's largest industries, employing more workers than both the insurance and auto industries. In 2010, it generated $1.8 trillion in economic output, and delivered $118 billion in tax revenues. In fact, without travel and tourism's contribution to the tax base, each household would be taxed an additional $1,000 per year, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Illinois statistics for 2010 are not yet complete, but in 2009 more than 80 million travelers spent over $27 billion in the Land of Lincoln. Twenty of Illinois' 102 counties saw visitor expenditures of over $100 million, and about 1 in 10 Illinois jobs are directly or indirectly tourism-related.
After a slowdown in tourism funding through FY11 because of the state's budget crisis, Illinois recently released dollars for spring and summer tourism promotion through the state's popular "Mile After Magnificent Mile" campaign, and the state is also reopening its tourism information centers. These much-needed marketing dollars are bringing Illinois back to its place as one of the top states for visitors.
Other states are also looking at tourism more closely as an economic recovery generator.
Michigan legislators voted to fund their state's popular "Pure Michigan" campaign with an extra $10 million for winter 2011 and the upcoming summer season, and Iowa Tourism is in the midst of a major campaign targeting the Chicago metro area. Wisconsin Tourism is upping the ante on its tourism marketing efforts this summer to attract new visitors to the state. Two western states -- Wyoming and Montana -- are banking on Midwesterners' sense of adventure by saturating the Chicago market with billboards, TV and radio spots.
So as you can see, tourism is big business in the states, and Illinois legislators wisely choose to maintain tourism funding statewide for FY12 because of travel and tourism's impact on the economy. States across the nation are re-evaluating their tourism funding scenarios because of its importance.
In the Chicago Southland in FY10, regional hotels collected over $76.5 million in revenues, selling over 1 million room nights at an average cost of $70.00 per room night sold. Over 20 Southland municipalities collected a local hotel/motel tax on each room night sold in FY10, with a portion of the taxes collected going to tourism promotion and the rest going to the individual municipality's general fund.
The Southland numbers above do not include daily food, beverage, transportation and sundry costs associated with travel. At the Illinois Office of Tourism estimate of a daily visitor expenditure of $109 per day, per visitor, the 1,099,474 million room nights sold in the Chicago Southland in FY10 translates into visitor expenditures of more than $119.8 million for our region alone!
Most important, taxes collected in the Southland as a result of travel and tourism are not paid by local residents and homeowners, but by visitors, resulting in true economic growth for our state and region.
As we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, remember the impact visitors have on our state and local economies as you welcome them to our region. Tourism works for Illinois and the Chicago Southland!
Jim Garrett is president and CEO of the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.