CHICAGO -- Illinois continues to break its own tourism records,
with the latest figures showing that U.S. and international
visitors spent $17.2 billion in the 1995, according to Donna Shaw,
Illinois' tourism director.
That represents a 5.6% increase over 1994 and places Illinois
fifth in travel revenues among the 50 states, behind California,
Florida, New York and Texas.
In an address at the Illinois Governors' conference on tourism
here, Shaw said the economic impact nearly doubles, to $31.5
billion, through the "ripple effect, which includes food purchased
by restaurants and carpeting and furniture purchased by Illinois
Shaw added that if the state's total performance "smoked," then
its international results "sizzled," as international arrivals in
1995 zoomed up 13.9%, to 1.6 million.
"Our target market, overseas arrivals, did even better with a
spectacular 16% increase.
"Our achievement becomes all the more amazing when we consider
that international arrivals to the U.S. as a whole were actually
down 2%," she said.
From the statistics available for 1996, it appears that the
upward momentum continues, Shaw said.
The state's hotel-motel occupancy rate for 1996 was 67.6%,
compared with 67.4% in 1995, and lodging tax receipts, which fund
the state's tourism marketing program, rose by more than 10% in
1996, she said.
Additionally, leisure stays in paid accommodations increased 19%
in 1996, according to Shaw.
The Chicago area enjoyed a 25% increase, while the rest of the
state experienced a 10% increase, she said.
Another measure of the state's tourism success is the dramatic
gain in the number of potential visitors calling the Illinois (800)
2-CONNECT travel information line.
In 1996, 460,000 potential visitors called, outperforming the
previous year by more than 50%, Shaw said.
And 60% of the callers actually took an Illinois trip.
"In marketing terms, that's considered a phenomenal conversion
rate," Shaw said.