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Bureau: Visitor spending ranks high in Lake County

Layna Schubert, Allie White, both of Vernon Hills, and Dena Franchi of Buffalo Grove pick apples Sept. 19 at Heinz Orchard in Green Oaks.
Layna Schubert, Allie White, both of Vernon Hills, and Dena Franchi of Buffalo Grove pick apples Sept. 19 at Heinz Orchard in Green Oaks.

GURNEE – At its Rally for Lake County meeting, Visit Lake County, the destination marketing organization for Lake County, provided an update on travel and recovery, a look at travel sentiment, and a “rallying” for communities, businesses, travelers and visitors.

The meeting was at Gurnee’s Great Wolf Lodge, with members of the organization virtually connected.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Illinois had achieved its ninth consecutive year of record tourism growth. In Lake County, visitor spending topped $1.509 billion in 2019, a 5.6% increase from 2018. Tourism-related employment increased 2.9% from 11,350 to 11,680. Local tax receipts rose to $34.59 million, a 6.7% increase from $32.42 million in 2018. Visitors generated nearly $100.4 million in state tax receipts in the county, an increase of 10.6%.

Lake County ranked as one of the top three counties for visitor expenditures behind Cook and DuPage counties.

“Although we won’t reach the numbers in 2020 due to the pandemic, we know visitors will travel to Lake County again when they feel comfortable. We have sought-after destinations that not only help create thousands of jobs and provide economic growth, but also lasting memories,” Visit Lake County President Maureen Riedy said in a news release. “These memory-creating experiences are key for revenue and personal well-being. We’re community focused with our initiatives, from promoting ‘nearcations’ to the new WFH options (work from hotel) where families can e-learn and remote work together."

Data provided by the Illinois Office of Tourism showed that in 2019, Illinois welcomed a record 120 million visitors.

Visitors spent nearly $43.1 billion, a $1.3 billion increase over the previous year, according to the U.S. Travel Association. Travel and tourism not only created plentiful employment in Lake County, it created more than 344,100 jobs statewide.

According to DK Shifflet, a leading U.S. consumer travel research firm, domestic visitation to Illinois reached 120.4 million visitors, well above the national growth rate of 2%. Visitation to Chicago increased by 4.5% and downstate travel increased by 5.6%. Recent data on COVID-19 U.S. travel impact from Adara, a provider of intelligence for tourism consumer behavior, showed an uptick in bookings, online travel searches and forecasted travel.

With health and safety guidance in mind, Visit Lake County embraces visitors’ return to the iconic attractions, unique spots, natural amenities and countless hotel and dining options available. It encourages those traveling to stay informed. To provide a valuable resource for visitors and residents, Visit Lake County launched a dedicated web hub, Lake County @Home, an online site that “brings Lake County to your home” with virtual events and tours, blogs, itineraries and more.

Visit Lake County and others are showing support during the pandemic by joining the “All in Illinois” initiative, a statewide campaign introduced in April that calls on residents to be “all in” “one Illinois” and “all in this together.” Residents are encouraged to show support on social media by sharing messages and videos, displaying “All in Illinois” signs in yards and windows (available online) and by practicing the three W's in public: wearing a mask or face covering, watching your distance and washing your hands.

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