The head of the Bloomington Normal Convention and Visitors Bureau says growth in twin cities tourism last year was one of the largest increases she has seen. Crystal Howard says tourism spending of $321 million is nine percent growth.
"Leisure spending is up. People are getting out more. I also believe that we have a very sustaining community business environment here. And when our businesses and universities are doing well, they are bringing more people in."
Howard says more usual annual growth is in the four percent range. According to economic modeling formulas, Howard says the spending figure translates to more than two million visitors to McLean County in 2011. Hotel occupancy rose about 4% from 2010. And Howard says the hotel sector is up 12% so far this year. She says both the state and local tourism workers have boosted marketing and advertising efforts to lure leisure travelers, even from inside the state.
"Illinois has really stepped up the attractions in their advertising as well. So I would agree that there are probably a lot of people that are staying in and taking a look at what Illinois has to offer."
Howard says last year's growth keeps McLean County in the top ten in Illinois for visitor spending. Growth last year is also above the state average of more than eight percent. Howard says people feeling better about their financial status, and increased business, sports, and education activity all contributed to the growth.
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