Visitor Spending Reaches All-time High in Rockford and Winnebago County | Sports Destination Management

Visitor Spending Reaches All-time High in Rockford and Winnebago County

Aug 21, 2017

During 2016, visitor spending in Rockford and Winnebago County reached an all-time high of $353 million, directly creating/sustaining 2,888 jobs with $85.51 million in payroll

An analysis of visitor spending since the Great Recession shows that tourism in Winnebago County is growing faster than in other major counties in Illinois. Spending in Winnebago County grew 39% since 2009, faster than 11 of the 12 other large counties examined* and much faster than the set average of 29%. This growth was second only to growth in Chicago/Cook County. 

"In more ways than one, Winnebago County is at the top in Illinois. As we work to grow investment and job creation in Winnebago County, let's not forget that tourism is a quick, clean and efficient form of economic development. Seeing tourism grow faster here than in all other similar Illinois counties is fantastic and something we should build on," said Frank Haney, Winnebago County board chairman. 

In 2016, local tax receipts generated by visitors - funds that help local governments pay for services residents rely on - were $6.23 million and state tax receipts were $19.02 million. Compared to 2015, visitor spending was up 1 percent, employment grew by 2.4 percent and wages grew by 5.6 percent. Importantly, local tax receipts grew by 5.5 percent and state tax receipts grew by 3.2 percent according to numbers released by the Illinois Department of Commerce's Office of Tourism and US Travel Association. 

"The economic impact of tourism on our local economy cannot be overstated," said David Anderson, Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau board chair and founding family member of Anderson Japanese Gardens. "I see the momentum every day at the gardens as I meet visitors from across the country. Visitors are helping to grow our community, and it is great to see the results in the numbers released by the State of Illinois."

Noting recent investments made in tourism infrastructure, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara said, "Tourism plays a critical role in our regional economy and the statistics from 2016 prove that. Most importantly, visitors to our region bring in new revenue and help us create and sustain jobs, at a time when the state is working to strengthen its finances. All our residents should be proud that investments we've made in our tourism infrastructure are paying off."

In addition to overall visitor spending statistics, hotel sector-specific data demonstrate growth with all major hotel sector KPIs (key performance indicators) on the rise.

  • ADR (average daily rate) reached $81.27 in 2016, up from $64.70 in 2009.

  • RevPAR (revenue per available room) reached $49.70 in 2016, up from $32.64 in 2009.

  • The occupancy rate reached 61.2% in 2016, up from 47.0% in 2009.

  • Annual hotel rooms booked in Rockford (demand) grew to 651,000 in 2016 from 507,000 in 2009, a compound annual growth rate of 3.6%.

RACVB President/CEO John Groh sees the trend continuing this year as hotel demand is up in Winnebago County. "Hotel stays are a leading indicator of visitor volume and growth. By way of example, we had three region-wide sellout weekends this June alone driving occupancy up to 81 percent countywide," Groh said. "While our reputation as a sports destination continues to grow, more and more people are coming as leisure visitors and while here they are enjoying our gardens, the region's culinary scene, and cultural attractions. Many people come to spend time with their kids at our family-friendly attractions, outdoor adventure parks, cultural events and more." 

Statewide, domestic and international travel expenditures reached $37.9 billion in 2016 - a $571 million increase from 2015. This follows the state's record-breaking domestic Illinois tourism figures released in May, which highlighted an increase of one million travelers to the state in 2016. 

"One of the beautiful things about Illinois is the variety of experiences you can enjoy across the state - whether you're looking for family-friendly activities, outdoor adventure, delicious food or an amazing road trip," said Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. "By bringing new money to our stores, hotels and attractions, visitors have the power to create a tangible economic impact for our communities. Our success as a state depends on each county doing their part to promote the diverse ways visitors can experience their own amazing moments in Illinois."

Fast Facts about Illinois Tourism in 2016:

  • Every $1 invested in Illinois tourism generates $9 in economic impact

  • Illinois welcomed 110 million domestic visitors (an additional one million visitors over 2015)

    • Of Illinois' 110 million domestic visitors, 17% were for business and 83% of leisure

    • In the past 10 years, domestic travel to Illinois has increased by 19 million visitors

  • Domestic travelers spent nearly $35.1 billion in Illinois during 2016, a 1.8% increase over 2015

  • In 2016, domestic travelers to Illinois generated $2.6 billion in state and local tax revenue, an increase of $122 million over 2015

  • Length of stay per visitor increased by 3%, surpassing the US average of 2.4%

*Large Counties in Illinois used for comparison are Cook, McLean, DuPage, Champaign, Peoria, Sangamon, Will, St. Clair, Madison, Kane, and Rock Island.

The mission of the RACVB is to drive quality of life and economic growth for our citizens through tourism marketing and destination development.

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