Governor JB Pritzker addressed hundreds of attendees at the Illinois Excellence in Tourism Awards Dinner [yesterday] evening, promoting the state’s strengths and celebrating our booming travel and tourism industry.
The following is an excerpt of the governor’s remarks:
It’s so wonderful to join you all here to celebrate Illinois.
After all, we attracted 114 million visitors in 2017 for a reason.
Illinois is home to some of the greatest cities in the world. Chicago truly has it all, from an abundance of arts and culture to Millennium Park to Wrigley Field to a shopping and dining scene like no other.
Illinois is home to small towns, rich in history and filled with charm. From Galena to Alton and Ottawa to Peoria, our magnificent rivers connect scenic regional communities.
And we’re home to natural wonders like the Shawnee National Forest and Starved Rock State Park, where families can make the outdoors their playground with hiking and biking, sledding and skiing, hunting and fishing.
Most importantly, we’re home to the greatest people in the world.
Entrepreneurs building shops and restaurants and hotels in every corner of our state.
Chefs and wait staff, hotel managers and clerks, designers and shopkeepers, welcoming people from across the world to our state and showing them everything that is good about Illinois.
We’re powered by some of the most decent, hard working, dedicated and kind people in the world.
I’ve often told people that in the summer you’ll often see a family from out of town walking together on Michigan Avenue looking at a map maybe a little confused. And every time, you’ll see one of our great Chicagoans ask “can I help you find something?” And inevitably a smile and a wave and “thanks” and “have a good time” are exchanged. That’s Illinois in a nutshell.
Our people are our strength. It’s all of you in this room and working families statewide who help make Illinois a great place to live and a great place to visit.
It’s no wonder Illinois is one of the top tourist destinations in the country!
And let’s not understate how much that helps our bottom line.
In 2017, the tourism industry generated $40 billion in economic activity.
That amounted to $3 billion in revenue for state and local governments.
And that saved the average Illinois household more than $1,300 in taxes.
Those tourism dollars supported over 337,000 jobs, providing wages and a decent living to so many working families.
The fact is, Illinois is the fifth largest economy in the United States and our travel and tourism plays a huge role in making that possible.
I want you to know I don’t take that for granted, and I’m going to stand with you to make your footprint in our state even larger.
As I said in my inaugural address, I am going to be our state’s best Chief Marketing Officer.
When people from other states and other countries are deciding where to visit, I will tell them about our natural beauty, our terrific historic sites, our awesome restaurants, and our amazing people.
When entrepreneurs are deciding where to build and grow their business, I’m going to tell them why Illinois is second to none in its supply of talented workers that come from our great higher education institutions.
And when families are deciding where to move and raise their children, I will make it clear that we are the most livable and affordable big state in the U.S.
And I’ll follow your lead too. You all know what it takes to promote our state’s potential.
With the help of everybody in this room, we’re going to attract even more people to visit. We’re going to promote all our state has to offer. We’re going to welcome even more people from all over the world. And together we’re going to build a better future for everyone that calls Illinois home. Thank you for all that you do!