New $6 million ad campaign announced to drive tourists to Illinois

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois is launching a new effort to drive tourists to destinations and attractions throughout the state.

A new ad campaign targeting seven surrounding states will encourage people to take road trips to Chicago and other Illinois travel destinations.

The aim is to bring jobs back and encourage people to hit the road Memorial Day weekend, and specifically that Illinois is where they should spend their hard earned dollars.

"We love big cities, it's time to travel again, and that's why were here," said tourist Krystal Sterling.

She and Ashton Fannin are visiting Chicago from Atlanta.

"It's just cool to see the different architecture and the history of the city," Fannin said.

Governor JB Pritzker said visitors are part of the solution after a year of staggering losses for the tourism industry. He announced the new push to propel people through Illinois this summer Wednesday.

"Tourism means jobs more hotel and hospitality and recreation workers getting back to work," Pritzker said.

He announced a new $6 million ad campaign targeting surrounding states and featuring Illinois' own REO Speedwagon.

"When we've got tourists and visitors coming and staying in our hotels, shopping in our stores and going to our museums and attractions, they are paying the paychecks of those employees that come from every single ward in the city of Chicago," said Kimberly Bares, President and CEO of Magnificent Mile Association.

Bares said that should be a help downtown at a huge Illinois tourist attraction, the Mag Mile

According to her, the Magnificent Mile hosts 6 million visitors in a normal year. The pandemic brought that down to just 25 percent.

A few blocks away at Navy Pier, it normally welcome nearly 9 million visitors yearly, but just recently reopened outdoor attractions.

A birthday crowd from Quincy, Illinois and Hannibal, Missouri is part of a hopeful trend.

"It's just great to get back to just being and having fun with my friends," said tourist Joyce Mayfield.

"What's really encouraging is we're seeing an 18 percent spike in our website traffic that is from outside of Illinois and that means there is some interest there. So we want to encourage those people to make that trip," said Payal Patel, spokesperson for Navy Pier.

Sixty itineraries are available for communities across the state, including Oak Park in Cook County that has a craft beer trail that goes all summer long. You can learn more by visiting
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