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Tourism spending up in McHenry County

Published: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 1:14 p.m. CDT
(Lathan Goumas –
People ride a historic Chicago Transit Authority streetcar while visiting the Illinois Railway Museum in Union.
(Northwest Herald file photo)
Royal Oak Orchard employee Jorje Carrillo bags fresh picked apples after they come out of the washer at the facility near Harvard. Apple picking is a draw for tourists to McHenry County.

McHenry County tourism generated $212.89 million in 2012, an increase of 3.7 percent over 2011.

According to a report released by the U.S. Travel Association and the Illinois Office of Tourism, state and local tax revenue from tourism in McHenry County totaled $18.12 million in 2012, up from $17.5 million in 2011.

Travel expenditures in the county have gone up each of the last four years. Travel expenditures include money spent by travelers on such things as public transportation, food service, auto transportation, lodging, retail and entertainment/recreation.

The county’s travel industry workforce grew slightly from 1,540 to 1,550, while the payroll increased from $42.6 million in 2011 to $43.95 million last year.

“Everything’s up – expenditures, payroll, employment and tax receipts,” said Jaki Berggren, executive director of the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“With the economy being down, people may not be taking a huge vacation cross country,” Berggren said. “They’re doing a lot more local tourism. People are realizing McHenry County is a place to come and have fun with the family without breaking the bank,” she said.

Berggren noted that every dollar invested in promoting tourism results in a $6 return in state tax revenue.

“Tourism dollars pay off. It’s huge that tourism brings in tax dollars that help our communities maintain our quality of life.”

Beggren said 2013 is shaping up to be another record year. Funding from the state tourism grant program increased by about 4 percent to McHenry County for fiscal year 2014.

McHenry County ranked 14th out of 102 counties in tourism dollars in 2012.

Statewide, Illinois saw another record year for tourism, with more than 99 million visitors from across the U.S. That’s a 6.1 percent increase over the more than 93 million visitors in 2011.

The state drew 80.1 million vacationers last year, up 6.9 percent from 2011. Growth in business travel was only 2.5 percent, to 18.9 million visitors, still below the peak of 21.4 million in 2000. In 2008, when the recession took hold, business travelers comprised 22.7 percent of the state’s visitors. Last year, the share had dropped to 19 percent.

State officials say tourism generated more than $31 billion for the Illinois economy in 2012. That’s about 5 percent more than in 2011, when tourism brought in about $29.5 billion. Tourism generated $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenues in 2012.

The state’s travel industry workforce grew an estimated 1.9 percent, to 275,370, according to preliminary estimates. 

“Another year of record-breaking numbers proves that travel is back and the tourism industry in Illinois is thriving,” Gov. Pat Quinn said in a statement.

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