For hoteliers, business is booming in Illinois.
On July 10, Gov. JB Pritzker, the state's legislative leadership and representatives of the hospitality industry announced that hotels in Illinois saw record revenues in fiscal year 2023, which ended June 30.
Across the state, hotels brought in $307.8 million, according to figures from the state's Department of Revenue. That beats fiscal year 2019, the previous record year for hotel income and the last year before the pandemic upended the hospitality industry.
Revenue in 2023 was up 35.8% from the prior year and 230.1% from fiscal year 2021, when the pandemic was still significantly affecting peoples' travel habits.
"Tourism means more jobs for hotel and hospitality and recreation workers – good paying jobs with health insurance," Pritzker said at the news conference in Chicago. "More tourism means millions of new visitors exploring all the amazing things that our state and city have to offer."
Major events have helped bolster Illinois' tourism industry in 2023, according to Kristin Richards, the head of the state's Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. These include the sold out Enjoy Illinois 300 NASCAR race in Madison and Taylor Swift's Eras tour.
Swift's fans, who descended on Chicago's Soldier Field for three nights over the first weekend in June, contributed to Chicago seeing the highest weekend hotel occupancy rate in history – an average of 96.8%, according to reporting from Bloomberg.
But hotel revenues are only one way to measure tourism's impact. Other metrics have yet to match 2019's records.
The state's tourism office partners with analytics firm Tourism Economics to research visitors' impact on the state's economy. The agency reported to the state in June that Illinois saw 111.3 million visitors who spent $44.3 billion in calendar year 2022. Calendar year 2019, the highest year on record for both measures, saw 122.8 million visitors who spent a combined $45.5 billion.
The hotel industry as well has not fully recovered from the pandemic's tourism industry interruptions.
Michael Jacobson, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said that while revenues have returned, staffing levels and occupancy rates overall have not yet reached pre-pandemic levels, although they were trending toward recovery.
"We look forward to returning to our place as one of the most significant economic engines, employers and taxpayers in the state," Jacobson said on Monday.
The state has made some significant investments in tourism in the past few years, including the $30.3 million "Middle of Everything" ad campaign. The campaign, which launched in the spring of 2022, stars television actress and Illinois native Jane Lynch.
The campaign's first year brought in an additional 2 million visitors and generated $1 billion in Illinois hotels, restaurants, small businesses, and attractions, according to the state's tourism office. The campaign recently launched a new set of TV ads this summer that feature the television star.
"Being able to share my passion for all things Illinois comes naturally, and getting to meet and work with so many inspiring people and unique businesses across the state is an honor," Lynch said in a June 23 news release.
Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.