New state numbers show Central Illinois is seeing a rise in tourism.
The eight county region served by the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which includes Peoria, Tazewell, Woodford, Bureau, Mason, Marshall, Fulton and Stark Counties, brought in more than $643 million in 2013, a 1.8 percent increase over 2012 numbers. Visitor spending also generated over $14.8 million in local tax receipts.
"That's fantastic," said Illinois Office of Tourism director Jen Hoelzle.
Peoria County saw the largest increase in 2013, seeing tourism revenue go up by about 2.8 percent. In addition to helping add to municipal sales tax coffers, Hoelzle says visitor spending helped create more than 5,000 jobs in the Peoria area.
She says the city is "primed" for even more growth, especially with construction of the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex, which should be up and running in north Peoria by summer 2015.
"When athletes come to town, they bring parents, and parents bring money. It's really important to attract these sporting events," Hoelzle said.
Statewide, the tourism industry hosted more than 105 million visitors, an increase of 4.5 percent over 2012. Hoelzle says the bump generated about $2.6 billion in revenue. This was the third consecutive year of record-breaking travel industry numbers.