Taylor Swift, pandemic’s end prompt record


Gov. J.B. Pritzker and leading tourism leaders on Monday announced the state broke its hotel revenue record — thanks in part to Taylor Swift and a post-pandemic boom in visits to Illinois.

The state’s hotel revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30 reached $309 million — beating a pre-pandemic 2019 record of $296 million. In total, 111 million visitors spent $40 billion on all tourism in 2022. That’s 14 million additional travelers who spent $12 billion more than the previous year.

“Our tourism industry is back and it’s booming,” Pritzker said at a Chicago news conference. “And that’s the thing about Illinois. When the people of the state set out to do something, we think big and we get the job done. Tourism means more jobs for hotels, hospitality and recreation — good paying jobs.”

Three consecutive Taylor Swift concerts last month helped to break an all-time hotel weekend occupancy record in Chicago.

Taylor Swift performs for the sold-out crowd at Soldier Field on June 2.

Taylor Swift performs for the sold-out crowd at Soldier Field on June 2.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times file

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Director Kristin Richards credited the Enjoy Illinois 300 NASCAR race, held last month in Madison near the Missouri border, with boosting tourism downstate. Rend Lake and Walkers Bluff in southern Illinois also saw an increase in tourism.

The Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association said record attendance at the 2022 Illinois State Fair, Lollapalooza and Suenos music festivals in Chicago and the John Deere Classic in the Quad Cities also helped boost hotel numbers. Having the Illinois Legislature back in full session for the first time since 2020 helped downtown Springfield — and corporate relocations, such as Rivian in Bloomington, also helped increase hotel traffic.

State and local tax revenue from visitor spending totaled in $4.2 billion in 2022, according to a Tourism Economics Report. The report also noted there were 270,600 workers in the state’s tourism and hospitality industry, an increase of 38,300 jobs from 2021. 

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday announced record-breaking hotel revenues in Illinois.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday announced record-breaking hotel revenues in Illinois.

Screenshot from Illinois.gov

Before the pandemic, the state’s hotel occupancy rate was the largest growing source of tax revenue. While revenue is up, business travel continues to lag — and hotel staffing levels also remain below pre-COVID-19 numbers, said Michael Jacobson, Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association president.

He used the good news press conference to send out a job pitch.

“If you are considering a career change, we would love to have you join the hotel industry,” Jacobson said. “Wages here in Chicago start around $23 an hour, and the benefits are better than they’ve ever been. Additionally, many of our jobs don’t even require a college degree.”

State tourism leaders also credited the boost in hotel revenues to a state tourism campaign called “Middle of Everything” featuring actress and Dolton native Jane Lynch, which launched in 2022. The governor’s office said the campaign has helped to bring in 2 million trips, adding $1 billion spent in Illinois hotels, restaurants, small businesses and attractions.

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