By Steve Rensberry, Editor
Attendees at the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau summit this past week were treated to an impressive breakdown of the value, impact, and future of tourism in the region, primarily in the counties of Madison, Jersey, Macoupin, Calhoun, Montgomery, and Greene. Held in the Meridian Ballroom on the campus of SIUE, the event brought together dozens of municipal representatives, business people, educators, and numerous awardees from the area, including from Edwardsville, Collinsville, and Alton. Speakers included Great Rivers & Routes of Southern Illinois Board Chairman John Hopkins, President/CEO Brett Stawar, and SIUE Chancellor Randy Pembrook.
The numbers are impressive. According to the bureau, the overall economic impact of tourism in the region in 2018 was $695.5 million, an increase of $4.3 percent over the previous year. Local tax receipts from visitor spending: $18.64 million. “Tourism is not only an economic engine for our communities, but it is a catalyst for growth and expansion as well,” the bureau states.
The tourism bureau, which includes Troy as a member, is a success story in itself. In 2019 the bureau welcomed 13,085 visitors, had 1,601,179 page views on its website, recorded general advertising impressions exceeding 38 million and social media impressions exceeding 3.1 million, and documented international media exposure that produced stories valued at $750,000.
One common theme among the speakers was the benefit of unity, of working together to attract visitors and people interested in moving to the area. One thing this area does offer is diversity, including natural wonders like the Mississippi, dozens of historic sites, athletic opportunities, entertainment venues, and more. Kudos to the Great Rivers & Routes team for showing us how it’s done!