Governor Pat Quinn tomorrow will meet with travel officials in Mexico City to promote Mexican tourism in Illinois, already a $103 million business. The governor is currently on a trade mission to Mexico, as part of his agenda to drive Illinois' economy forward and create jobs. The governor will address members of the travel industry at a breakfast in Mexico City to showcase Illinois and Chicago as a visitor destination and advance Mexican awareness of Illinois' rich cultural heritage.
"Mexico is Illinois' third largest international market for visitors to our state, with 100,000 arriving by plane alone each year," Governor Quinn said. "But we can't stop now, and this mission will strengthen our economy by increasing the number of Mexican tourists to Illinois."
Governor Quinn will headline the Illinois tourism breakfast held at the Torre Mayor, one of the tallest buildings in Mexico City. In his address, the governor will highlight the great and varied tourism opportunities available in Illinois, from the city of Chicago to the Abraham Lincoln and Route 66 sites, and the Shawnee National Forest. Joining Governor Quinn is a host of Illinois businesses and organizations, including Chicago-based United Airlines and Choose Chicago, to encourage travel to Illinois.
Illinois and Mexico have strong social ties. There are 1.6 million persons of Mexican origin in Illinois, representing 12.5 percent of the state's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Yet, many Mexican tourists come to Illinois to visit family and friends without taking advantage of the diverse activities in the state. One of the trade mission's main objectives is increasing Illinois' market share of Mexican visitors to the U.S., as there is great potential. Mexican travel to the U.S. is expected to grow 17 percent by 2017.
"Mexico is critical to our tourism sales, marketing and public relations strategy," Don Welsh, Choose Chicago president and CEO said. "Visitation out of this market is essential as we continue to work toward Mayor Emanuel's two key goals for leisure tourism -- to grow annual visitation to exceed 50 million visitors annually, and to elevate Chicago to be among the top five most popular US cities for international travel. Mexico's travel trade community, and its travel writers and influencers have now discovered the most American of American cities. We look forward to continued success in this region."
"As tourism traffic from Mexico to Chicago continues to grow, United is excited to be a key partner in efforts to connect these two great destinations for business and leisure travelers," Rolf Meyer, United Airlines' managing director of sales in Mexico said. "This marks our 47th year of service to Mexico, and we look forward to continuing to explore new opportunities in the local markets."
According to Google, from 2011 to 2012 the highest increase of online users searching for Illinois information came from Mexico, a 23 percent increase. Since attractions throughout the state are very popular with Spanish-speaking families, Illinois has launched a re-imagined www.disfrutaillinois.com, the state tourism website for Spanish-speaking audiences. The Spanish-language guide can be downloaded for free on the website.
More than 90 million domestic and international travelers visit Illinois every year, supporting more than 290,000 jobs. The Illinois tourism industry generated a record $31.8 billion in 2011, up 8.4 percent from the previous year, fueled by a record increase in leisure travel. The 2012 results, slated to be released this summer, are expected to show another strong year. The robust results emphasize the critical role tourism plays in fueling Illinois' economic growth, creating jobs and providing additional revenue to the state.
The top markets for international visitors to Illinois, in order, are: Canada, United Kingdom, Mexico, Japan, the People's Republic of China and Germany.
The Mexico trade mission, from April 3 to 6, is the latest by Governor Quinn as he seeks to promote Illinois to an international audience. Past missions include China and Japan in 2011, and Canada and Brazil in 2012.