Getting Serious About Tourism

Tourism is a funny thing in some communities, with some embracing it, some just “going with the flow,” and some downright shunning it. Varying degrees exist in about every town, I suppose. This is not to slight in any way the communities in our neck of the woods, which all-in-all I think have a pretty balanced approach, but I would like to offer at least one constructive suggestion, and a reminder. The suggestion is simply to think more long term, especially when tied to preservation. A museum is a good example. It might cost a chunk of money to set up or construct, a ton of work to fill with memorabilia and other keepsakes of historical value. And a good number of volunteers and talent to keep it going. But while the chance of seeing a sizeable return on that investment in the first few years may be zero, over time I’d guess that it will be worth its weight in gold. Museums, in my mind anyway, are like anchors to a community — not unlike libraries, schools, and many types of historic, local, family-owned businesses. They are places of learning, intrigue, and culture, time capsules that keep us grounded. Plus they are  simply a great tourist attraction.

The reminder is really a no-brainer, which is that tourism equals money. It’s a fact that most communities do recognize, I think, however much they’d like to have the one (money) without the other (traffic).

A recent press release from the state’s Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) gives an idea of just how much money we’re talking about, on a statewide level anyway.

“More than 114 million people visited Illinois in 2018 and pumped $40 billion to the state’s economy, proof that a thriving tourism industry is vital to the state’s economic vitality,” the release stated.

Most recently the DCEO enlisted the service of one of the country’s leading marketing and advertising agencies, O’Keefe Reinhard & Paul (OKRP), which it said has been tasked with providing “Premier promotional expertise to tout the state’s many historic and popular tourism destinations to both domestic and international travelers, as well as a top choice for national conventions and meetings.” Provided such promotion includes the whole state, and not just the more populous half to the north, I’d say it will be money well spent.

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