Record number of tourists chooses Illinois in 2013
CHICAGO (KFVS/AP) - State numbers show the number of international visitors to Illinois last year grew by 3 percent, to 2.2 million.
Gov. Pat Quinn announced the increase Thursday while visiting 12-year-old Chloe Stirling at the Kendall College Culinary Camp in Chicago. The 12-year-old's cupcake business in Madison County was shut down earlier this year, prompting a change in state law for home baking.
Cindy Cain with the Southern Most Tourism Bureau said that lots of people from north Illinois, like Chicago, like to vacation down south.
"And they flock to this area for many different outdoor recreation activities such as canoeing the Cache River. The Shawnee national forest in and of itself is probably the main destination driver to our area," she said.
Marsha Odom from Chicago suburb Lakemoore, Illinois, said her visit to the Egyptian Hills Resort in Southern Illinois was worth the trip.
“It’s nice here. In the Chicagoland area or anywhere in the state of Illinois," Odom said. "Why go somewhere warmer, when it’s warm here. You save that for winter time."
Micah Merrill, owner of the Egyptian Hills Resort says his customers would rather stay close to home.
“The people from out of state say, ‘you know what, we don’t have to go to Florida," Merrill said.
Illinois officials said in May that 103.5 million Americans visited the Prairie State in 2013. Quinn says with international visitors, Illinois saw a record number of tourists last year - 105.7 million.
Visitors spent nearly $35 billion in the state. That generated nearly $3 billion in state and local tax revenues.
Tourism research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates provided the numbers.