Illinois Office of Tourism and industry leaders have kicked 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 hit the road 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.
“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,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker on May 12. “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 locations like Chicago’s Navy Pier, the Riverwalk and the city’s diverse neighborhoods.
Overall, the Illinois Tourism Office has created more than 60 original itineraries to help visitors navigate Illinois’ communities and natural resources.
The campaign — which features the “Time for Me to Fly,” by Illinois native rock band, REO Speedwagon — will run on television, radio, digital and print media, and highway billboards spanning 18 markets, and with ads also available in Spanish. (view Time for Me to Drive video)
“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 gradually resume as public health guidelines allow.
“Without question, tourism is a key economic driver for Illinois and is essential to our economic recovery,” said 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.”
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.
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 we continue to move back to ‘normal’ and again welcome visitors, it’s investments like this that will provide a much-needed economic shot in the arm for the tourism industry and allow its workforce to get back to work and back on their feet.” said Senate President Don Harmon (D-Oak Park).
Approximately $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.
“Illinois is back open for business and we are excited to welcome back visitors with open arms,” said Michael Jacobson, president and CEO, Illinois Hotel & Lodging Association. “Investing in tourism promotion efforts allows for Illinois to compete in the regional, national and global marketplaces to get travelers to our great state. This helps our economy, boosts tax revenues, improves our state’s image and puts people back to work.”
The Illinois Office of Tourism will continue working closely with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and CVBs to ensure adherence to the latest safety guidelines throughout the summer.
The campaign features the hit song, “Time for Me to Fly,” by Illinois native rock band, REO Speedwagon.