The Jacksonville area saw a significant bump in tourism last year. Brittany Henry, Executive Director of the Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau says that a good number of jobs and several million dollars were injected into the local economy: “I always like to remind everybody that our numbers run about a full year behind. We had a significant increase last year. Expenditures for our area topped $53.51 million and that was a 4.7% increase from 2018. With that increase, our travel spending generated $1.12 million in local tax revenue and that helped support 300 jobs. Out of those 300 jobs, that generated a little over $9 million in payroll for our area.”
Henry says that the local trend is right in line with the state trend of the 9th consecutive year of record numbers, hosting more than 120 million visitors in 2019 in the state while generating more than $43.1 billion in travel expenditures around the state.
Henry says that 2020 is bound to be a challenging year: “I think it is safe to say that we are going to be down a little bit [in Jacksonville], but I can also say, when looking at numbers that were trickling in from the beginning of COVID despite things weren’t as strong come February into March and then into April, May and June – even though we had a decrease in those months ( a tremendous decrease like most areas have had), we actually can report that we came in just under 6% of hitting our budget for this year from that July to June fiscal year. We were operating at about a 48% occupancy in the last month and we are grateful for that.”
Henry says that business travel into the area has helped to keep the tourism economy going in the year amid massive cancellations of events. Henry says that the local tourism industry is beginning to adapt: “We are just going to have to pivot our marketing as we move forward as we know travel is already going to be changing for our area. We know that because we are getting the phone calls here at our office asking about more things to do outside, what type of outdoor events we are going to be having over the next year. People are already looking into 2021 on some of those road trip opportunities to our region. We know that we are going to stay ahead of the game this year. Although it may not make our numbers increase, we know that we might be able to at least hold our numbers steady for this area.”
For more information about the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau and local tourism opportunities, visit jacksonvilleil.org.