In a news release, the Rockford Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau put a positive spin on the news, noting that 2012 was going to be a tough year to top.
“These numbers are down slightly, -2.1 percent, from 2012 which was a banner year for Winnebago County at $326,000,000,” said RACVB Board Chairman Darrell Snorek. “In 2011 and 2012 Winnebago County’s tourism increases outpaced that of other metro regions in Illinois. In fact, in 2011 it grew at a higher rate than the State of Illinois,” added Snorek in a news release.
However, RACVB reports that regional sites and attractions recorded record-breaking visitation during 2013. In total, area sites and attractions welcomed 6,765,917 visitors, up about 1 percent over 2012. Total attendance for festivals and events in 2013 dropped significantly to 795,245 in 2013 versus 1,062,634 in 2012 primarily because of the cancellations of 'On the Waterfront' and the 'Rockford AirFest' that year officials say.
While the overall tourism numbers for 2013 are a mixed bag, RACVB officials are optimistic about the future. They report hotel occupancy is up in the first half of 2014, and the proposed Ingersoll Sports Complex and Amerock Hotel Project hold the potential to bring more tourist dollars to the area.
They also cite figures showing that tourism in Winnebago County supported 2,640 jobs in the hospitality sector which generated $71,290,000 in payroll. They say the tax revenue produced by the local visitor industry was $5,240,000.