City tourism officials working to bring more travelers to area

By Jim McCabe on May 5 at 1:40pm

Brittany Henry (left) and Andy Ezard (right) this morning.

Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard officially has declared this week National Travel and Tourism Week in the city.

The proclamation is retroactive to last Saturday to coincide with state and national efforts to promote tourism. The mayor’s announcement took place at the Jacksonville Convention and Visitor’s Bureau office on East State this morning.

Brittany Henry, the bureau’s executive director, says travel in Jacksonville and Morgan County generated over $44.4 million in direct spending in 2012 by visitors and directly supported 280 new jobs. Henry talks about what her office is doing to help promote the idea of people visiting West Central Illinois.

“We still do the visitor’s guide, our annual events guide, really just getting  out in the community and outside of that 50-mile radius to promote Jacksonville,” she says.

“Whether it’s attending more events and talking about them, going up to people, asking them why they’re here. It’s really just connecting the visitor, going into a hotel, having breakfast with them in the morning, asking them what brings them to Jacksonville.”

Henry says a selling point of tourism for Jacksonville is its central location between Chicago, St. Louis, and Springfield.

“Our primary goal is ‘heads and beds,’ but now the state’s also kind of turned it into ‘feet in the street’ too. We’re- I don’t want to say piggybacking- but if we get a day traveler from Springfield, that’s a win, and so that’s our marketing material that’s going over there to push them over here, and then when they see the material that we’re pumping out in the community such as the annual events, they’re going to come back here for that,” says Henry.

“So, I really think not only for a first timer in Springfield, but when you get them to Jacksonville for the first time, then we get them again. Same thing, Quincy’s not too far. Iowa’s not too far. Missouri’s not too far. We do get quite a few people that go around, and that’s where our marketing efforts are working,” she continues.

Henry says she’ll participate in a state-wide conference in Decatur next Monday with other tourism boards in Illinois.

Governor Pat Quinn announced last week that Illinois welcomed more than 103 million U.S. residents to the state in 2013, the largest number of domestic visitors to Illinois ever and the third consecutive year of record-breaking numbers.