Rockford’s tourism achieves industry highs and 2020 lows

Local News

WINNEBAGO COUNTY, Ill. (WTVO) — 2019 marked the 10th year in a row tourism was booming in Winnebago County.

“We are reporting record growth last calendar year, the impact locally has continued to support over 3,000 jobs, and visitors last year generated over $7 million in local tax revenues,” said Nick Povalitis the Vice President of Marketing & Sports Development at the Rockford Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Fast forward to 2020, and the industry has been hit hard.

“In March and April in Winnebago County alone, more than 7,000 people within the leisure and hospitality industry lost work throughout those months, throughout the pandemic,” Povalitis explained.

Rockford Art Deli, which sells some tourists must haves, has felt the impact.

“We had some issues, June and July were really low. Actually those two months we were down 110% just because we weren’t open to the public yet,” said owner Jarrod Hennis. “In the grand scheme of things we’re doing pretty okay, we are down but customers are coming in, people are happy.”

The year hasn’t been a complete loss for everyone.

“We’re 15% higher in August 2020 than we were in August 2019,” explained David Anderson, Founding Family Member of Anderson Japanese Gardens. “The biggest factor is that the garden is considered a safe outdoor attraction, so many things are closed, people have time.”

Tourism leaders hope many of the events that have been forced to cancel will still find a home in Rockford.

“We’re looking at 2021, 2022 to reschedule events that would have happened in 2020,” Povalitis said.

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