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 State Economic Development Director Re-Opens Southern Illinois Tourism Information Center; Highlights Importance of Tourism Industry on Illinois Economy

Rend Lake South Tourism Information Center Re-Opening Expected to Add $2.9 M in State Tourism Spending Creating 27 Illinois Jobs

WHITTINGTON � Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) Director David Vaught today visited southern Illinois to announce the re-opening of the Rend Lake South Tourism Information Center located in Whittington, Illinois. The re-opened tourism information center will help increase tourism spending and revitalize the local economy and surrounding southern Illinois communities.

�The tourism industry is an integral part of the Illinois economy. By investing in the state�s tourism industry, we are creating more jobs for hospitality and travel workers, supporting long-term economic growth and making Illinois an even more attractive place to visit and do business,� DCEO Director David Vaught said.

The state�s tourism information centers (TICs) serve as a gateway to Illinois and play an important role in the state�s efforts to encourage domestic and international visitors to stay longer and see more of Illinois. Starting today, the Rend Lake South Tourism Information Center is fully staffed and will be open Thursday through Monday of each week. Travel counselors will be available to assist visitors with travel information, provide brochures, and make hotel reservations as needed in order to generate more revenue during a visit/stay in Illinois. Typically, travel counselors are able to increase the length of stay in Illinois and visitor expenditures by an additional $45 on average per visitor.

The Rend Lake South Tourism Information Center is one of 11 tourism information centers to re-open after being closed in June 2010. All of these TICs were selected to re-open based on the volume of visitors/traffic that the facilities received. Through increased visitors, the re-opened Rend Lake South TIC is expected to bring in an estimated $2.9 million in additional tourism spending to the southern Illinois economy over the next year, which would create approximately 27 jobs.

�The Rend Lake South Tourism Information Center is vital to making sure visitors have the latest information on tourist attractions, lodging and restaurants in the area, which will help provide a much needed boost to the local economy,� said State Representative John Bradley.

�The re-opening of the tourism information center at the I-57 welcome center will help bring more visitors to local tourist sites,� said State Senator Gary Forby. �With more information about area attractions, people will stay in Illinois longer and spend more money in the southern Illinois economy.�

The TICs are funded through the Tourism Promotion Fund, which is funded by a portion of the state's hotel motel tax collection. In 2011, state and local tax revenues from tourism totaled more than $2.3 billion, which is an increase of more than $300 million. State tax revenue rose 20 percent to $1.64 billion while local tax revenue rose 5.1 percent to $706 million.

�I am very pleased that the state has decided to re-open the Rend Lake South Tourism Information Center. This will not only help local tourism but tourism throughout the lower 22 counties of southern Illinois,� said MaryLou Galloway, Director of the Southern Illinois Artisans Shop and Visitors Center.

Governor Pat Quinn recently announced that the Illinois tourism industry generated a record $31.8 billion in 2011, up 8.4 percent from a year ago. The increase of nearly $2.5 billion was fueled by a record 10 percent increase in leisure travel. The robust results mark the industry�s return to pre-recession levels and emphasize the critical role tourism plays in fueling Illinois� economic growth, creating jobs and providing additional revenue to the state.

Illinois travel industry estimates indicate 4,490 jobs were created in 2011, increasing the number of travel workers in Illinois to approximately 291,990.