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Illinois Sees Increases to International Tourism Revenues

Chicago aerial view. Photo by Marta

Strong exchange rates for the euro and pound are boosting the numbers of international travelers to Chicago and have enabled Illinois to collect more than $366 million in 2010, according to reports from the state agency that monitors commerce.

A favorable exchange rate is encouraging many foreign tourists to visit the United States.

In 2010, Chicago welcomed 1.2 million visitors from foreign countries, according to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (ILDCEO). Illinois is the 7th most popular U.S. state among foreign tourists, the ILDCEO reported. Foreign visitors spent more than $2 billion in Illinois in 2010, which generated 21,290 jobs.

Visitors from the United Kingdom and Germany topped the list of foreign tourists, the department reported, while Japan and China ranked third and fourth.

“Chicago is beautiful and is a great spot for pleasure and work,” said a spokesman from the German consulate in Chicago.

In 2010, 158,000 visitors in Illinois were British and 91,000 were German.

“Many German families live in Chicago and several hundred German companies have their headquarters in this region,” the German consular official said.

The exchange rate on the dollar is currently 0.761 Euro and British Pound Sterling is 0.632.

“The hotel taxes, airport fees and car rentals have been doing very well,” said Rep. Kenneth Dunkin (D-Chicago), chairperson of the State Tourism & Convention Committee. “Our tourism had a very good year.”

Dunkin said even though 2010 was a very profitable year, the state has to work with international agencies and look for ways to attract more overseas tourists.

“The problem is that the economies in other countries have impacted us, so it’s important for us to be more creative,” he said.

Dunkin said the state should invest in new areas to attract a young population, business travelers and international tourists.

Dunkin said he is concerned about the reinvestment of the money generated from international tourism. Tourism income should be use specifically for tourism expansion in the state, he said.

“Our state government has to stop taking money [from tourism] and putting it in the general fund,” he said.

Dunkin said the state should work with international agencies to invest in promotion, but he is not sure that the state should give private businesses too much power.

Rep. La Shawn K. Ford (D-Chicago), member of the Tourism & Convention Committee, said he wants the state to work more closely with businesses to expand tourism, but wants to make sure the state maintains control of such endeavors.

“If a private company wants to come in and invest in the state it’s good, only if they don’t take over,” he said. “We don’t want to sell the state to the companies. I think the state has to maintain control.”

Rep. Randy Ramey, Jr. (R-West Chicago), a Republican member of the state Tourism & Convention Committee, said he thinks getting money from private partnerships can generate good incomes for the state, but the government has to make sure the businesses use their power properly.

“Do we want the Abraham Lincoln Museum be called the Prudential Abraham Lincoln Museum?” Ramey asked.

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