The Future of Travel in Southwest Illinois: Policies for a Better Tomorrow

As southwest Illinois and the Great Rivers & Routes region emerges from the pandemic and welcomes back visitors, it’s time to turn the page and look ahead—to imagine a future for southwest Illinois travel industry that is bold and imaginative, competitive and helps small businesses thrive.

National Travel & Tourism Week

This National Travel and Tourism Week (May 1-7), Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau recognizes the Future of Travel and the critical role our industry will play in rebuilding our local economy, fostering sustainability, ushering in new innovations and reconnecting Americans to each other and the world.

It is also an opportunity to remind us of the incredible value travel holds for America’s future growth and success as we move beyond the pandemic.

Travel is such an important part of who we are as a community. Before the pandemic, visitor spending topped $1.4 billion in our six-county region and supported over 10,000 jobs. Nationally, travel generated $2.6 trillion in economic output, supported 17 million American jobs and delivered a $51 billion trade surplus to the U.S. in 2019—proof that travel will have an outsized role to play in southwest Illinois and America’s economic recovery.

However, this vital revenue source was severely diminished amid the pandemic.

International inbound travel and business travel remain depressed. International travel spending is down 78% from 2019 while business travel spending is down 56%. In Illinois, both sectors continue to lag the national average and will not fully return to 2019 levels until 2025.

This uneven recovery within the travel industry will further delay America’s overall economic recovery. To help return our industry to sustained growth, it is crucial that lawmakers prioritize policies to facilitate a more prosperous future for the millions of workers whose livelihoods depend on this industry.

The Future of Travel is Sustainable

Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau attracts millions of visitors annually, many of whom visit our great outdoor assets including Pere Marquette State Park, the Madison County Transit bicycle trail system and Lake Lou Yaeger. Protecting these treasures locally—and restoring other sites such as national parks, national forests, beaches and natural attractions—ensures they can be enjoyed for generations to come. Travel and sustainability can complement one another. With the right tools in place, travelers can see and experience our country—and protect it.

The Future of Travel is Innovative

Infrastructure investments in roads, airports, transit and passenger rail are key to making it easier to access destinations and attractions. New transportation technologies like high-speed rail, autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and other innovative technologies can improve travel times and attract more visitors to southwest Illinois.

The pandemic was a setback, but it’s also an opportunity to re-imagine the travel industry. If lawmakers plan for the future by prioritizing these policies today, businesses in the Great Rivers & Routes region can recover more quickly and rebuild the travel industry to be more dynamic, innovative, sustainable and competitive than ever before.

About the Author

Cory Jobe

Cory Jobe

President/CEO Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau