Our friend Andrea Mandala from the Rockford Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB) joins the WROK Morning Show every Friday to give you a rundown on all the cool things there are to see, do, and enjoy every weekend here in Rockford. It seems as though her message is resonating with a lot of people, which results in a lot of money and jobs for the Rockford area.

The next time you find some difficulty in parking downtown, or you're annoyed with the 57 pre-teen soccer players clogging up the checkout line at your favorite market, pause and take a deep breath. Maybe it will help if you consider the amount of money these folks are bringing into town, along with the Rockfordians that they're keeping employed.

I'm looking at an email I received from the aforementioned Andrea Mandala at RACVB, in which she puts a number on all those visitors:

During 2016, visitor spending in Rockford and Winnebago County reached an all-time high of $353 million, directly creating/sustaining 2,888 jobs with $85.51 million in payroll.

So, as the old saying goes, a million here, a million there, pretty soon you're talking about real money.

An analysis of visitor spending since the Great Recession shows that tourism in Winnebago County is growing faster than in other major counties in Illinois. Spending in Winnebago County grew 39% since 2009, faster than 11 of the 12 other large counties examined and much faster than the set average of 29%. This growth was second only to growth in Chicago/Cook County.

Frank Haney, Winnebago County board chairman:

"In more ways than one, Winnebago County is at the top in Illinois. As we work to grow investment and job creation in Winnebago County, let's not forget that tourism is a quick, clean and efficient form of economic development. Seeing tourism grow faster here than in all other similar Illinois counties is fantastic and something we should build on."

David Anderson, Anderson Japanese Gardens:

"The economic impact of tourism on our local economy cannot be overstated. I see the momentum every day at the gardens as I meet visitors from across the country. Visitors are helping to grow our community, and it is great to see the results in the numbers released by the State of Illinois."

The RAVBC also points out that in addition to overall visitor spending statistics, hotel sector-specific data demonstrate growth with all major hotel sector KPIs (key performance indicators) on the rise:

  • ADR (average daily rate) reached $81.27 in 2016, up from $64.70 in 2009.
  • RevPAR (revenue per available room) reached $49.70 in 2016, up from $32.64 in 2009.
  • The occupancy rate reached 61.2% in 2016, up from 47.0% in 2009.
  • Annual hotel rooms booked in Rockford (demand) grew to 651,000 in 2016 from 507,000 in 2009, a compound annual growth rate of 3.6%.


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