Illinois State funding cuts could hurt tourism

By Carly O'Keefe - bio | email

MARION, IL (KFVS) - With only two employees on the payroll, the Southern Illinois Tourism Development Office in Marion worked to promote tourism in Illinois' 22 southernmost counties. But when the State of Illinois pulled back funding, the board of directors had to lay off those employees and end the effort.

That may make it harder for smaller tourist destinations to bring people through their doors.

"It's a constant battle to get people to come in," said Williamson County Historical Museum President Bob Jackson. "I think when you got somebody in charge like that office was you've got things to feed a little traffic from something else."

Tourism is among the most interconnected industries there is. If someone visits southern Illinois to golf, they'll likely stay at a hotel or B & B, eat in restaurants and maybe visit a few historical sites or scenic spots while they're in the area. That is... if tourists know where those sites and spots are.

"It's good for all of us to get the word out about all of the beautiful places," said Giant City Lodge manager Mike Kelley. "Whether it's Giant City Park and visiting the Lodge, or going to one of the lakes or wineries or other many places, if you don't reach somebody who may have been reached, that's potential lost in the area.

That's what the tourism office used to do: reach folks inside and outside of southern Illinois to get the word out about what this area has to offer.

"Southern Illinois needs to have an overall them so we can market ourselves more effectively outside of our region," said former Southern Illinois Tourism Development Office Executive Director. "That's what we were really directed toward doing. Unfortunately that's not going to happen anymore."

Copyright 2010 KFVS. All rights reserved.