Effingham was one of the first stops on the Illinois Office of Tourism's Road Show Monday afternoon spreading the good news about local and state tourism.
The second of 16 stops, Deputy Director Jen Hoelzle took the time to honor Firefly Grill with a Lincoln Award for the above and beyond work owners Kristie and Niall Campbell put in for the Illinois tourism industry.“This is hands down one of the best restaurants in Illinois,” she said. “It's really something to be proud of.”Hoelzle reported that the state saw a 6.1 percent increase in tourism in 2012 over 2011, with 99 million domestic visitors frequenting the state. The number generated $31 billion for the Illinois economy and a 5 percent boost in tourism dollars from the previous year, according to figures released Monday. Tourism also generated $2.3 billion in state and local tax revenue in 2012.
The tally for international visitors is not yet complete.
“Illinois is like New York with a smile,” Hoelzle said.
Effingham County experienced a 4.5 percent increase in visitor spending.Hoelzle praised the Campbells for their business practices and being a draw for the area — and the state.Chef Niall Campbell appreciated the recognition.“It's fun,” he said. “It reinforces what we do. We live our passion, and to be recognized on top is really special. ... You don't pay much attention until someone says you're doing a good job.”It also helps that Firefly Grill has been entered into the Virtual Tourist 8th Wonder of the World contest. With more than 300 entries across the globe, it is the only submitted restaurant.The Campbells say they have gotten some media coverage from Chicago and Champaign and have seen an increase in business after their nomination.But they're also excited for what the nomination means for the community. “We're flattered to be on that list,” Kristie Campbell said. “Tourism begets tourism.”To which Niall Campbell added those who come to eat also spend money on entertainment, shopping and hotel rooms in town.Voting for the contest runs through September. One vote a day may be submitted through the company's website.
Nicole Dominique can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 138, or at email@example.com.