Published on : Tuesday, October 31, 2017
The government agency intends to open its office in Mexico City on Nov. 1 and Beijing on Dec. 1, with three additional support offices in Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou.
About six to 10 people will work across the five offices on public relations, marketing and trade efforts for Illinois tourism, according to Cory Jobe, director of the Illinois Office of Tourism.
The agency has worked on paid media and smaller trade initiatives in Mexico and China during the past few years and decided to open on-the-ground offices to meet the growing demand from those markets, according to Jobe.
He said the initiative is a great way to showcase Chicago, Route 66, the Great River Road and the Lincoln legacy in Springfield.
“To be honest with you, Chicago and Illinois is still not known like destinations on the East Coast and West Coast. We’re typically the fourth destination to the U.S. from an international traveller,” he said. “But we have seen with the limited paid media that we’ve done with no in-country representation that there is great interest in Illinois.”
China is the state’s top overseas market with about 235,000 visitors in 2016, an increase of 41.5 percent on a year before.
Chinese visitors spent around $175.1 million in Illinois, generating about $13.1 million in state and local tax revenue. About 26.3 percent of travellers were visiting friends and relatives, and 24.5 percent were on vacation.
About 195,000 people visited from Mexico in 2016, a 10 percent increase from 2015. They spent an average $116 million in Illinois and generated $8.7 million in state and local tax revenue. More than 50 percent of Mexican visitors were traveling on vacation and about 20.7 percent were visiting friends and relatives, according to the agency.
A U.S. Travel Association study released Oct. 3 shows that international travel to the U.S. is still lagging behind domestic travel because of a “strong dollar, global instability and the unintended consequences of Trump administration security policies.”
However Jobe said Illinois’ tourism industry has not been affected by President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on Mexico and Mexican immigrants. He said the state’s No. 1 travel barrier is the strong dollar, which makes it more expensive to travel to the country.
He said they would continue to work with airline partners in Mexico and China to expand tourism.