On Oct. 27, 2022, Governor JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity (DCEO) announced nearly $3 million in funding to support local tourism promotional efforts across the state through the Illinois Travel and Tourism Grant Program.
“As we continue to recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19, my administration is laser-focused on rebuilding our state’s tourism industry,” said Gov. Pritzker. “Today, I am proud to announce that DCEO is launching nearly $3 million in funding for local governments, municipalities, nonprofits, and more to attract visitors from around the nation—and the globe—to our great state. We are the Land of Lincoln, the home state of Obama, and the heart of the Midwest—all while touting the kindest people you’ll ever meet and, yes, the best pizza you’ll ever try.”
The Illinois Travel and Tourism Grant Program provides funding for promotional efforts by local governments, and municipalities, non-profits and local promotional groups such as Illinois’ Certified Convention and Visitor Bureaus (CVBs), with the goal of attracting visitors to destinations, attractions, and events throughout Illinois. This program is funded by a federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant.
“With hidden gems, world-famous attractions and natural wonders in every corner of our great state, tourism is a critical part of the Illinois economy, and this new program will help draw more visitors to explore all Illinois has to offer,” said DCEO Director Sylvia I. Garcia. “Under Governor Pritzker’s leadership, the state has provided unprecedented support for tourism attractions and festivals, as well as direct support for hospitality businesses that are a key part of our tourism economy such as restaurants, bars, and hotels.”
With more than 97.1 million visitors in 2021 spending billions across the State’s economy, Illinois is a top destination for visitors with recognition in national travel publications like Condé Nast Traveler and Time Out who named Chicago the best big city in the U.S., and CNN who ranked Southern Illinois among the most underrated travel destinations in U.S.
Through the grant opportunity, the state will match local funds used to promote destinations, attractions and events through marketing such as promotional materials, media production costs, billboards, promotional materials at trade shows and additional uses outlined in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO). The ultimate goal of the program is to support promotional projects that increase visitation and overnight stays, thereby fueling the local economies across the state.
“Illinois has a great story for visitors from around the country,” said State Sen. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). “We just need to get out there and tell it. Marketing dollars available through DCEO will help convention and visitors’ bureaus and local governments update their pitch and image so that Illinois is next on everyone’s travel list.”
“There is something in Illinois that is right for everyone, many just don’t know it yet,” said State Rep. Lamont J. Robinson (D-Chicago). “When visitors get a glimpse of what it will be like to a hike in Shawnee National Forest or a stroll along Chicago’s Lakefront, they’ll be on their way.”
“Our events, festivals and attractions are not to be missed and a critical part of that is raising awareness so folks can visit,” said State Sen. Cristina Castro (D-Elgin). “This grant opportunity will help make sure our events are sold out, our hotel rooms are booked, and our restaurants are filled to the brim. I couldn’t be more excited for communities to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) entities can apply for grants of up to $100,000 for promotional funds. Applications will be accepted until Dec. 12, 2022. To view the NOFO and apply for the grant, please visit illinois.gov/dceo and navigate to the Grant Opportunities page.
DCEO has prioritized local tourism recovery through multiple grant funding efforts and opportunities, including $25 million for two rounds of the Tourism Attraction and Festivals Grant Program, $4 million for Route 66 tourism funding, and more than $285 million for restaurants, hotels and small businesses in the tourism/travel industry through the Back to Business (B2B), Business Interruption Grant (BIG) and Emergency Hospitality grant programs.