SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. JB Pritzker Wednesday joined the Illinois Office of Tourism and industry leaders to kick off “Time for Me to Drive,” a new campaign to promote the return of travel across the state. In its first new campaign for tourism since the onset of COVID-19 last year, the State of Illinois is encouraging residents and visitors to get out and enjoy Illinois’ diverse communities and scenic landscapes safely.
A multi-state ad campaign set to launch later this week will encourage travel to a broad range of destinations throughout Illinois, while positioning the state to seize on pent up demand. As consumer trends reveal an increased desire to travel by car, the new campaign is timed to highlight Illinois as a top choice for travel ahead of the summer season.
“The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is one of our state’s greatest attractions having welcomed millions of people from around the world. That’s why I chose it as the place to announce Illinois’ new tourism campaign – one designed especially to meet this moment in our history,” Pritzker said. “After an incredibly difficult year in which the pandemic kept us all close to home and staying apart, lifesaving vaccines are bringing us back to life and heading toward a summer of fun and venturing out. Today I’m proud to launch the Time for Me to Drive Campaign – inviting people to see all of Illinois, showing off adventures of all kinds: Historic sites and winery tours, state parks and rock climbing, hiking, and zip-lining, hundreds of craft breweries and thousands of excellent restaurants across the state.”
“Time for Me to Drive” highlights the state’s seven national scenic byways and highways as more travelers seek to pack their cars and hit the road, a trend seen increasingly across the country. Featured trips span the state’s iconic museums, world-class architecture, and natural wonders, including Matthiessen State Park in Oglesby, Mississippi Palisades State Park in Savanna, the Shawnee National Forest, and the Garden of the Gods in Herod. Road trip itineraries also promote the discovery of destinations in and around Chicago, including award-winning restaurants, small businesses offering Illinois-made products and unforgettable locations like Chicago’s Navy Pier, the Riverwalk and of course the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
Overall, the Illinois Tourism Office, housed within the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, has created more than 60 original itineraries to help visitors navigate Illinois’ unique communities and natural resources.
The campaign will run on television, radio, digital and print media, and highway billboards spanning 18 markets, and with ads also available in Spanish.
“Time for Me to Drive” represents the first phase of the State’s strategy to revitalize tourism in Illinois focusing on summer trips and regional overnight stays. Future tourism promotion efforts will be launched as indoor tourism activities, large festivals and mainstay attractions resume as public health guidelines allow. This gradual approach to tourism promotion will play an important role in supporting a safe return of the industry and its workers, while also boosting tourism revenues.
“Without question, tourism is a key economic driver for Illinois and is essential to our economic recovery,” Sylvia Garcia, Acting Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). “That’s why we are excited to roll out this new campaign just in time for summer, marking a critical step forward in bringing visitors back into our communities, supporting our hospitality businesses and helping build consumer confidence. We thank our tourism partners for their continued support as we work to revive the industry and reclaim Illinois’ place as a major international destination for business and leisure travel.”
The campaign features the hit song, “Time for Me to Fly,” by Illinois native rock band, REO Speedwagon. In spots, travelers change the nostalgic song’s lyrics from fly to drive, underscoring the excitement shared by many that after over a year of the pandemic, it is now time to venture out and experience everything Illinois has to offer.
New research indicates that over 70 percent of Americans are ready to return to travel, up nearly 20 percentage points since the start of the year, and that many favor road trips. Since the pandemic began, it’s estimated that more than two-thirds of Americans have taken a road trip. Additionally, industry experts have consistently recommended road trips to help consumers feel comfortable in light of the ever-changing nature of the pandemic.
In addition to the $6 million campaign, the Illinois Office of Tourism is working with convention and visitor bureau (CVB) partners statewide to gain feedback on how the state can support renewed business for their communities. DCEO has also launched extensive stakeholder engagement around tourism recovery initiatives, bringing CVBs as well as industry groups to the table to gain input on how to best reinvigorate travel and the revenues visitors bring to the state.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, tourism was identified by the Pritzker administration as a hard-hit industry, prompting State of Illinois relief funds to be prioritized for tourism and tourism-related businesses. As a result, $75 million went to tourism and tourism-related businesses as part of the Business Interruption Grant program, with an additional $133 million for restaurants and bars statewide. With the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) the Administration is again exploring additional opportunities to address the needs of tourism businesses facing continued losses due to COVID-19.