Galesburg tourism pumps up local economy

Galesburg is getting a big boost from tourism these days. It means millions of dollars for a city that’s recovering from tough economic times.

Basketball adds up to big bucks for Galesburg tourism. It’s a big reason why tournaments attract visitors. Sports events helped to fill more than 4,600 extra hotel rooms in 2013.

“That kind of stuff just brings people in for more than a day, so they have to spend the night,” said Bill Morris, Galesburg’s director of tourism and marketing.

Cultural activities helped Galesburg generate an estimated extra $17 million in tourism money. Day-trippers are flocking to Discovery Depot. The children’s museum reopened after major renovations in December. The fresh look is already quadrupling revenue there.

“We do track our zip codes as visitors come through the doors,” said Executive Director Denise Bradburn. “We’re seeing a significant increase in out of town visitors right now.”

Tourism has a ripple effect on other Galesburg businesses. When more people stay in hotel rooms, they’re also spending more money on food, shopping and entertainment.

That’s the case for Q’s Cafe on Main Street.

“It’s a big help to morale,” said owner Walt McAllister.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, this is a real mom-and-pop success story. Tourism dollars encourage expansion, hiring and spending for the restaurant.

“You’re willing to take a little more risk and move forward a little more,” he said.

For its size and location, Knox County ranks in the top 30 Illinois counties for tourism. That totaled more than $67 million in 2012. While about one-third of what Rock Island County brings in, it’s still turning heads.

“Tourism is an economic indicator,” Morris concluded. “People are coming, and they’re spending money.”

For Galesburg, that’s worth a visit.

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