Tourism in the region offers a unique experience for outside visitors

Cory Jobe, the current president and CEO of the Great Rivers and Routes Tourism Bureau, served as Illinois State’s Director of Tourism for five years.

During those years, Jobe never realized how important tourist traffic was to small businesses in those communities.

“The Main Street experience and meeting the owners when you walk into a place is a unique experience that you don’t find everywhere,” Jobe said. “The story of small business is the story we tell. Our region is so unique and diverse that it is a great story to tell visitors.

As we move away from the worst of the pandemic, Jobe sees tourism as a major economic driver to bring in large amounts of revenue for municipalities.

Although COVID had a negative monetary impact on small businesses and tourism, it opened the door for potential change, and that was to further develop the tourism product with more family activities, as well as more family activities. outdoors.

One thing Jobe has noticed during the pandemic is that people from all over the region are coming to the area for the first time to enjoy the outdoors, which includes the 137 miles of bike paths offered by Madison County Transit.

“Rural tourism is still the most popular travel idea in the country,” Jobe said. “There are record numbers of people taking Route 66 and experiencing the real America. We’re not like the western states that experience tourism.

Edwardsville will host two Route 66 events this summer: the Kicks on 66 car show in September and the annual Route 66 festival in downtown Edwardsville in June.

Throughout the summer, Edwardsville will also host the Arts in the Parks musical series, as well as the Edwardsville Art Fair in late September.

Early June will be a hot spot for Collinsville, with the 35th Annual International Horseradish Festival June 3-4 in downtown Collinsville.

That same weekend will see the NASCAR Cup Series race taking place at World Wide Technology Raceway on June 5. This race will be called Enjoy Illinois 300.

The complete list of events is available on the Great Rivers and Routes website.

“These events are very important not only to our out-of-town visitors, but also to our community members and residents,” Jobe said.

Jobe knows how important tourism is to the area, especially since his research showed him a 40% increase in visits to the Great Rivers and Routes website.

Residents of the three most viewed cities on the website are St. Louis, Chicago, and Indianapolis.

“Tourism is an investment,” Jobe said. “We market our beautiful area and visitors come to enjoy it all and spend their money here. If you don’t talk about your area, people will go elsewhere.

One form of investment in the area has come from Alton, which now has three cruise ships moored 34 weeks this year, attracting more new travelers to the area.

These events and new investments continue to bring visitors to local businesses on the area’s main streets.

“All indicators are up and looking promising,” Jobe said. “Now is not the time to take your foot off the accelerator.”

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