(WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Tourism is down pretty much everywhere these days but in 2019, it was a good year for Illinois.
State officials say prior to the impact of COVID-19 and record losses in the industry, Illinois achieved its ninth consecutive year of record tourism growth in 2019.
According to new data released by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Illinois Office of Tourism, the state welcomed a record 120 million visitors last year and a record economic boost for the state. In 2019, visitors spent nearly $43.1 billion, a $1.3 billion increase over the prior year, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
State officials say these visitor expenditures directly supported more than 344,100 jobs in the Illinois travel and tourism industry, an increase of 1,800 jobs from 2018. Travel also generated nearly $2.5 billion in state tax revenue, an increase of 7.7 percent.
Visitation to the City of Chicago increased by 4.5 percent and downstate travel increased by 5.6 percent, fueled by a strong leisure tourism increase of 6 percent.
Last year’s record-breaking tourism levels will prepare the state to make a healthy comeback once the tourism industry resumes normal activity, officials say.
DCEO Acting Director Michael Negron said Pritzker's COVID-19 regulations and data-driven state decisions to combat the coronavirus will help get the state back on track to do well in tourism.
"The 2019 tourism numbers demonstrate what we already know — that pre-COVID-19, Illinois offered one of the top destinations for travel in the country, supporting thousands of jobs and economic growth for our communities," Negron said in a statement. "Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, the state of Illinois is committed to a data-driven plan allowing a gradual reopening of key segments of our economy. This public health approach, matched with our strong tourism performance in 2019, offers a strong foundation that will allow Illinois to bring visitors back as soon as it is safe to do so.”