ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) – The Forest City has seen dramatic growth in the tourism industry over the last decade. Tourism advocates say an influx of visitors is strengthening the local economy.
The Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau says travel brought $392 million into local economies in 2018.
“This is directly related to tourism and getting those visitors in, whether it’d be from sports tournaments, or event driven, or initiative driven,” said RACVB Associate Director of Marketing & Communications, Andrea Cook.
Visitor spending reached an all-time high in 2018, helping generate nearly $7 million in local taxes.
“That directly impacts police, fire, public work,” said Cook.
The RACVB says one of it’s most popular events is Stroll on State. The annual holiday celebration takes place downtown after Thanksgiving.
“Our Destination Development Department has put that on,” said Cook. “That is what we’re very, very proud of.”
City of Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara says Rockford is successful because it’s attractions aren’t solely downtown.
“You also see, we have tremendous assets on the outside of the city center,” said Mayor McNamara.
Some of those assets are facilities like MercyHealth Sportscore One and Two, which hosts numerous tournaments throughout the year.
“They’re saying ‘Hey, we’re noticing Rockford is on the map, and we’re noticing you have great facilities, and you have great accommodations, and great hospitality’,” said Cook.
Between 2009 and 2018, visitor-related economic impact in Winnebago County grew 54%. That growth was faster than all other major counties in the state except Cook.
“Tourism is a huge industry in the City of Rockford that benefits all of us who call it home,” said Mayor McNamara. “So, I’m really excited, I can’t wait to continue that this year.”
The RACVB the new downtown hotel and conference center, and a possible future casino, will only fuel additional economic impact.