In our state's first foray into trying to drive tourism to Illinois since the beginning of the pandemic, the "Time For Me To Drive" campaign gets rolling this week.

Wait...time for me to drive...where have I heard that before?

If you figured out that the new Illinois tourism slogan is based on the title of a song from a band that got started in Champaign a few decades back, give yourself a pat on the back. REO Speedwagon's "Time For Me To Fly" is the inspiration.

As you're undoubtedly aware, the last year of the pandemic has been particularly hard on Illinois' tourism business, with estimates of a 50 percent drop in visitors coming to Illinois and spending their money.

Sylvia Garcia, director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, said the campaign is a critical step forward in bringing visitors back to Illinois communities. Garcia noted, before the pandemic, Illinois welcomed more than 120 million visitors per year, and they spent more than $40 billion a year in the state.

When you consider the loss of tourists and the money they bring to our state, along with the loss of several big conventions to neighboring states, maybe the $6 million dollar advertising buy will turn out to be worth the investment. Current plans are to run the ads in 7 states and 18 different markets.

Michael Jacobson is the president and CEO of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, and he points out that this sort of travel and tourism promotion works because it puts people back to work:

We still have 20,000 hotel workers out of work and laid off across the state who are anxious to get back to work. An investment in tourism promotion is an investment in economic development.

Here's one of the ads. What do you think?

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