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Route 66 News

Reaching out across the pond

The Illinois Times published an interesting report about the state’s efforts to boost tourism despite a poor economy.

The article includes this excerpt on a novel way that Illinois has reached out to Route 66 travelers who live in Great Britain:

They’ve also found that the British have an interest in the 1960s and authentic American experiences like Route 66, Kostner says, so they’ve partnered with Little Chef, a chain of United Kingdom roadside diners, to bring a Route 66 ambassador to travel and promote the road back in their country.

“It’s an urban and a rural experience,” she says. “Europeans get two to three weeks of vacation, so they can take huge chunks of time to really experience it.

“We’re reaching out to different audiences to get above the noise of our competitor states — here’s something that you can get here that you can’t get elsewhere.”

The Chinese have also taken an interest in Route 66, recently sending three photojournalists to explore the route and report their experiences for two popular Chinese Web sites.

Give Illinois credit for an unusual way to reach potential tourists in Britain. Talk about a win-win situation …

As for tourism forecasts for this summer, the signs are encouraging:

“This is not the time to slow down or stop; it is the time to move onward and upward,” Kostner continued. “American Express says consumers are approaching the year with ‘an optimistic yet prudent outlook’ and that travel tops their list of ‘pursuits most valuable to their livelihood and well-being.’”

“We should be optimistic, too — this is our time to take the new landscape and plant the appropriate seeds so that we grow.”

Travel inquiries to the bureau’s office and to its Web site EnjoyIllinois.com dwindled throughout the summer, but rebounded in December, increasing by 27 percent. The end-of-the-year upswing helped boost total inquiries to EnjoyIllinois by nearly 8 percent over 2008.

Because of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth last year, many Illinois tourism sites actually saw increases in the number of visitors.

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