Rockford’s tourism industry may not recover until 2024, experts say


Tourism recovery efforts are underway to bring more families to the Forest City. After a year full of having to stay home and canceling events, they are gearing up for more visitors.

We spoke with the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB) who say it’s going to be a challenge.

“Recovery will happen over a long period of time,” said RACVB’s President & CEO John Groh.

“Since the start of the pandemic travel spending in Illinois has been down 43%,”Groh explained. “At the height of the pandemic, 40% of the workforce in our area from the hospitality and the tourism sector was unemployed.”

“That was a period that was all about holding on and getting through, and we are moving into a period that looks like recovery.”

That recovery is going to take a few years and include challenges.

“Up to perhaps 2024 to get back to pre-pandemic levels,” Groh said. “Across the country that is a big question mark, what’s going to happen with gas prices especially as we’re promoting road trips.”

Jayne DeLuce, chair of the Illinois Council of Convention & Visitor Bureaus says getting people back to work has made it difficult for the industry.

“now it’s an interesting parallel we’re ready, everybody’s traveling, everybody’s out but not everyone is coming back to work yet,” said DeLuce.

But they will take it in strides as restrictions continue to be removed.

“What we do is best for our residents, yes we bring in visitors, but at the end of the day, we are building quality of life. We are doing things for our residents that are going to make our communities very welcoming, and a great place to live, to work, and to raise our families,” DeLuce added.

The two also said the use of technology could continue to hinder business tourism. They say events like conventions or conferences may never fully recover.

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