This is National Travel and Tourism Week and several tourism bureaus throughout southern Illinois are joining forces to salute the power of travel.
Andy Waterman is communications director with ILLINOISouth Tourism. He says representatives from Enjoy Mt. Vernon, Visit Effingham, visitSI, Carbondale Tourism, Southernmost Illinois Tourism, the Greater Metropolis Convention and Visitors Bureau, ILLINOISouth Tourism-Mattoon and Benton-West City make up the Southern Illinois Tourism Alliance.
"At the end of the day, we have to work together to really drive home what southern Illinois has to offer and there's a lot more to offer than what people think."
But, he says this week is about more than just urging people to get out and about. They should get out and about and support some of their local businesses, such as coffee shops and restaurants, that have suffered terribly during the pandemic.
"Travel and Tourism also mean economic development. So, if you can spend a few dollars at these different small businesses and help these communities out, it's really huge for them."
Waterman says Travel and Tourism Week takes on a special significance this year as the industry looks to rebound quickly from the pandemic and accelerate recovery efforts.
In 2019 before the pandemic, he says travel and tourism districts 12 and 15 in southern Illinois accounted for nearly 30,000 jobs and $3 billion in spending.