Illinois Reports Visitors Spent $17.2 Billion in '95

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 hotels.

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.

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