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Illinois Aims To Drive Tourism Growth As Full Reopening Approaches

Lamont Robinson Jr.
State Rep. Lamont Robinson Jr., D-Chicago, says the challenge of the pandemic has taken its toll on Illinois as the state prepares to launch a new tourism campaign to drive economic growth.

A new tourism campaign aims to help rebuild Illinois' economy as more of the state's population becomes vaccinated. Advocacy groups say tourism recovery will help Illinois stay competitive nationally and globally after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The multistate "Time for Me to Drive" campaign is set to launch later this week, as Morning Consult reports 69% of Americans polled say they are comfortable taking a road trip.

State Rep. Lamont Robinson Jr., D-Chicago, said the challenge of the pandemic has taken its toll on Illinois.

"It has been particularly tough on our small businesses, restaurants, hospitality industry that rely on tourism to facilitate local economic development and growth," said Robinson.

The Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker reports the number of small businesses open in Illinois has dropped by 35% compared to January 2020.

Michael Jacobson of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association said an increase in tourism would help economic recovery and development, especially for the state's hotels.

"We still have 20,000 hotel workers out of work and laid off across the state who are anxious to get back to work," said Jacobson. "An investment in tourism promotion is an investment in economic development."

Illinois had been experiencing nine straight years of growth in tourism spending before the pandemic. According to the U.S. Travel Association, Illinois reported over $43 billion in visitor spending in the state in 2019.

The new campaign comes as Illinois faces a continued decrease in daily vaccine doses. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, around 36% of the state's population is fully vaccinated so far.

Illinois is set to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Friday as the state approaches full reopening June 11.

Christine Hatfield, a graduate student in University of Illinois Springfield's Public Affairs Reporting program, is WGLT and WCBU's PAR intern for the first half of 2021.
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