“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”
Those of us who are lucky enough to get away from time to time on vacation realize how much it does to improve our physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It helps our productivity when back on the job if we can carve out even a few days of relaxation from the daily grind of work responsibilities. It’s amazing what a simple change of scenery can do!
An additional benefit of taking some time off is the financial boost that tourism can provide for our local economies. In 2016, the economic impact of tourism here in Lake County was a staggering $1.29 billion in visitor spending, which ranks third in the state of Illinois behind Cook and DuPage counties. Our county does have the good fortune of being the home of Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, which is a huge draw. Additionally, Lake County offers a variety of other smaller attractions such as charming downtown Long Grove to tempt visitors to come experience our shops, restaurants and beautiful open spaces. County-wide, over 10,750 jobs are due to tourism and $29.6 million in local tax receipts are generated annually. Clearly, tourism plays an important role locally in job creation, business growth and economic development.
This week three board members of the Historical Society represented Long Grove at the Visit Lake County annual meeting held at the Lake County Fairgrounds. Going with a county fair “blue ribbon” year for tourism theme, we gathered with other chamber of commerce representatives, business leaders, restaurant owners, hotel and entertainment industry leaders, community partners and elected officials to celebrate our local success. Visit Lake County is our official marketing organization and champion of tourism in Lake County. Using promotions, advertising, video and social media, they keep the public informed of all the great reasons to come for a visit. Some of the events sponsored include Lake County Restaurant Week in March featuring 50 participating establishments, and the Lake County Libation Trail highlighting locally-made spirits, wines and brews. Our keynote speaker for the annual meeting was Cory Jobe, Director of the Illinois Office of Tourism. One of the topics that Cory touched on is the Project: Time Off initiative. Studies have shown that in the fast paced world we now live in, workers are not taking all of their allowed vacation days, resulting in days of rest and leisure and local economic impact being “left on the table.” We should all make use of the time we are given, to improve our lives, our health, and our communities.
Twenty five years ago tourism was a big business in Long Grove, with tour buses arriving weekly full of visitors ready to enjoy a day of small town ambiance and boutique shopping. We still welcome shoppers from all over the country and overseas at our downtown Visitors’ Center, but the tour buses have certainly slowed as the number of “Mom & Pop” stores have dwindled over the years. Long Grove continues to offer plenty of charm with our vintage buildings and iconic covered bridge, but today it is the history that also creates the draw. Our Long Grove Historical Society has a great working relationship with Visit Lake County staff, and we have been pleased to partner with them as a destination in group tours they are featuring of the area. As a historical society our mission is to preserve, celebrate, and share our local history, and if we can help the community with tourism benefits in doing so, all the better.