(The Center Square) – The much-beleaguered Illinois tourism industry just got a shot in the arm.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration has granted a $1 million COVID-19 Revamp Recovery Project award to the Illinois Council of Convention and Visitors Bureaus. The funding is specifically for creating marketing campaigns that highlight small businesses.
Congressman Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, said the grant is a small example of what they are doing at the federal level to drive tourism and get people out enjoying life while supporting small businesses.
“It allows then to be able to market what everybody used to enjoy pre-pandemic before they were shut down, and remind them why they want to come to our communities,” Davis said.
Katherine McLaughlin, marketing coordinator with Experience DeKalb County, said her organization may now be able to expand its marketing areas, which were limited during the pandemic.
“With the pandemic, we were really focusing on 55 miles and in just because a lot of people were taking road trips and day road trips and stuff,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin said it is an exciting time with events being booked and hotels filling up.
Teri Hammel, executive director of the Decatur Area Convention and Visitors Bureau said “we are doing very well, with 4 softball tournaments coming in, the Farm Progress Show in August, and the IHSA Softball Tournament just to name a few.”
Visitors to Illinois spent more than $41 billion in 2018, according to the U.S. Travel Association. State and local tax revenue generated from visitor spending amounted to $3.3 billion.
State officials say the federal money is also funding the state’s ongoing “Time for Me to Drive” campaign, which encourages residents and tourists to road trip around Illinois.
Disbursements of the funds throughout the state are still in the discussion stage.