Tourism Still Thriving in Illinois

Despite the country's economic downturn, tourism continues to thrive in Illinois, Governor Rod Blagojevich announced this week. In fact, the economic impact of tourism in the state increased by more than $1.6 billion in 2007 to a record-setting $29.9 billion, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

Visitors to Illinois spent nearly $82 million in state businesses last year, the TIA reports, adding that domestic travel expenditures in Illinois increased by 5.2 percent to $27.9 billion. International expenditures in the state, meanwhile, increased by 15.6 percent to $1.9 billion.

"Illinois is attracting visitors from near and far to explore all our state has to offer," Gov. Blagojevich said in a statement. "Visitors are pumping millions of dollars into the Illinois economy and are helping to create good jobs for the hard-working people of our state. Our tourism is thriving, and our innovative approach to attract visitors will help make sure it stays that way."

Illinois hosted 89 million domestic visitors and more than 1 million international visitors in 2007, according to data from D.K. Shifflet & Associates, a Fall Church, Va.-based market research firm. And although leisure travel declined 5 percent in the state last year, it has grown by 3.5 percent over the last two years, outpacing the national growth rate of 1.8 percent.

Business travel continues to experience strong growth in the state; last year it increased by 6.7 percent. In Chicago alone, business travel grew by 8.7 percent thanks to a thriving meetings and convention business.