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Illinois officials tout tourism numbers

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(The Center Square) – As Illinois reports record revenues for tourism, Gov. J.B. Pritzker says now is not the time to lower taxes.

On Monday, Pritzker and tourism officials hosted a news conference to discuss new tourism numbers for the state, including record hotel numbers.

In 2022, the hotel industry in Illinois generated $44 billion, $12 billion over the calendar year 2021, and 97% of 2019 levels. Around 111 million visitors came to Illinois, which was up nearly 50 million people from 2020, according to data provided in a state news release.

Pritzker said more tourism means more revenue for the state.

“I am proud to announce that in the fiscal year ending June 30, Illinois saw the highest-ever hotel revenue numbers. More tourism means millions of new visitors exploring all the amazing things that our state and city have to offer, supporting small businesses and local economies along the way,” Pritzker said.

Michael Jacobsen, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, said it has been a long road to recovery for the hotel industry but things are starting to turn in a positive direction.

“The hotel industry was among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, so these numbers are encouraging as the industry continues to work to recover,” said Jacobson. “We look forward to returning to our place as a strong economic engine for the state as demand for tourism returns and occupancy numbers rise closer to pre-pandemic levels.”

Illinois hotels recently received up to $1,500 per room in taxpayer funds to recover from COVID-19, for a total of $75 million statewide. That’s on top of $535 million dollars in taxpayer funds that had already been released through similar grants to hotels, restaurants and arts businesses across Illinois.

Even with the increased revenue from record tourism numbers, and a surplus from the previous year’s annual budget, Pritzker said he will not seek to lower taxes in Illinois.

“Look, we will do it whenever we can, but this isn’t the moment that we can,” Pritzker said. “We got to balance budgets and make sure we are paying off debts that exist, so we are doing that while we are also trying to lower taxes where ever we can.”

With the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, the state’s gas tax increased by 3.1 cents a gallon to a total tax of 45.4 cents. That’s the second increase of the motor fuel tax since Jan. 1, when it increased by an additional 3.1 cents.

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