Gov. Pat Quinn has announced that Illinois had its third consecutive record-breaking year for tourism by welcoming nearly 105.7 million visitors in 2013.
The governor made the announcement during a visit with Chloe Stirling at the Kendall College Culinary Camp in Chicago where the 12-year-old entrepreneur is perfecting her baking skills along with other young culinary students.
The governor visited Chloe and her parents at their Troy home last month to sign legislation, known as the "Cupcake Bill," to support home kitchen businesses in Illinois. The new law will help young entrepreneurs looking to get into the culinary field by making business opportunities more available and help drive the state’s economy forward. Chloe, her mother, Heather, her sister, Sophie and her grandparents all visited the Kendall College camp.
“It is inspiring to see so many culinary students like Chloe sharpening their talents in the kitchen," Quinn said. "Many of our state's young students are taking their energy and creativity to grow vibrant culinary businesses, which has helped established Illinois as a food destination. We continue to see record numbers of visitors in the state thanks in large part to our excellent restaurant industry. From our state's natural treasures to our museums and one-of-a-kind dining experiences, tourism is thriving in the Land of Lincoln."
In addition to the record-setting number of U.S. visitors to Illinois, the state welcomed nearly 2.2 million international visitors in 2013, up 3 percent from the previous year. One of the strongest growth sectors in 2013 was leisure travel, up 5.7 percent from 2012. Visitors spent $34.5 billion in Illinois in 2013, generating nearly $2.6 billion in state and local tax revenues.
In addition, the Illinois tourism industry workforce also grew to 301,100 in 2013, adding 2,400 new jobs to the state. These numbers, provided by D.K. Shifflet & Associates Ltd., highlight the tourism industry’s vital contributions to Illinois’ economic growth, job creation and tax revenue.
Quinn also announced Kendall College will, for the first time ever, partner with the Illinois Office of Tourism, a division of DCEO, to help plan the Governor's Conference on Travel and Tourism. Planning and promotion for the conference, which will run from Feb. 2-4, will be built into the curriculum for Kendall hospitality management students who will work alongside state tourism industry leaders to gain hands-on experience.
Many travelers come to Illinois or extend their stays because of the state’s thriving restaurant and culinary scene. The Chicago area, for example, hosts 25 Michelin-starred restaurants and 10 that have won a James Beard Award, the industry’s highest accolade.
Overall, restaurants account for 515,600 jobs in Illinois, about 9 percent of the state’s employment.
Kendall College in Chicago hosts a series of hands-on summer culinary camps designed for young students and taught by qualified Kendall instructors at the school's state-of-the-art campus. For more information, visit: www.kendall.edu.