Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau is a Destination on the Move
By Cory Jobe, President/CEO Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau of Southwest Illinois
Mr. Jobe spent over 20 years in Illinois state government and is the former Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. Mr. Jobe is currently President and CEO of the Great Rivers & Routes Tourism Bureau of Southwest Illinois which includes Madison, Jersey, Macoupin, Montgomery, Calhoun and Greene Counties and the City of East St. Louis in St. Clair County.
I’m very optimistic about the future of tourism in our region. In 2022 we welcomed millions of visitors to the Metro North Region of southwest Illinois. Those visitors spent hundreds of millions of dollars at our local restaurants, businesses, retail establishments, hotels-and visited our parks, sites and attractions in record numbers. Visitor spending produced millions more in local and state tax revenues used to protect our citizens, keeping our streets safe, and funding much needed public works projects.
New product opened including the Aerie’s Alpine Coaster in Grafton, Flock Food Truck Park in Alton, and Herald Square in Collinsville. New hotel projects are underway in Alton and Edwardsville. Speaking of Edwardsville the city’s food scene continues to explode with more variety and experiences. The bureau invested $1 million dollars in creating new product and developing new experiences along the Last 100 Miles of Route 66 in Illinois from Virden to Collinsville. We were awarded a $10 million Capitol Grant from the Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity to create new product and visitor amenities in Hartford and Alton along the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway. And, later this summer we will be out for bid for the redevelopment of Piasa Park and a 4,000 square foot Byway Activation Center (BAC) at the entrance to Alton.
One thing is crystal clear, we are a regional tourism destination on the move. In 2023 we will welcome no less than seven new sports tournaments to our region with an estimated economic impact of $3 million. The National Great Rivers Museum will turn 20 years old and the creation of the Meeting of the Great Rivers National Scenic Byway was adopted 25 years ago. We continue to see strong demand for motor coach and the group tour business and we will see all three cruise lines back in Alton from May to October.
We have a lot to be proud of in the Metro North Region. This is a regional destination that people from throughout the U.S. and, in fact, the world want to visit. We can’t stop now. As we look forward we need to come together and build a place where people not only want to visit, but where people want to live.