Govenor Pat Quinn expresses the wealth of culture, history, nature & more to be discovered in the State
03-06-2012  By: Terrilyn Kunopaski
Kevin Johnson, Adam Wilcox, Pat Quinn, Brad , John Kirk
Kevin Johnson, consul general, United State of America; Adam Wilcox, director, business development, Porter Airlines; Pat Quinn, govenor, Illinois; Brad Cicero, manager, communications and public affairs, Porter Airlines; and John Kirk, director, Porter vacations & packaged product

It’s been given nicknames such as Garden of the West, The Prairie State and The Land of Lincoln, but however you refer to it, Illinois has a wealth of tourism offerings and to share that message, representatives from the State visited Canada this week.
Pat Quinn, Govenor, Illinois
Pat Quinn, Govenor, Illinois

Govenor Pat Quinn joined travel trade representatives at The Hyatt Regency – Toronto for a luncheon sponsored by Starwood Hotels and Porter Airlines, where he emphasized the truth to the State’s campaign slogan, “Mile after magnificent mile.”

Quinn, who is the first Illinois governor to visit Canada in 15 years, said the purpose of his visit to Canada, and Toronto in particular, is to build connections.

“We both have great traditions of hospitality and welcomeness, making sure people feel at home – and there’s a lot of symmetry between the State of Illinois and the province of Ontario, and definitely, Toronto - our sister city - with the city of Chicago,” he explained.

The Govenor was joined by Jan Kostner, deputy director of the Illinois Bureau of Tourism’s.

“Canada has always been a very big market for the State of Illinois and actually, except for 2009 when nobody did really well in the tourism field, we’ve had gains ever since,” Kostner told in an interview. “2010 and 2011 have seen strong growth.”

Jan Kostner, deputy director, Illinois Bureau of Tourism
Jan Kostner, deputy director, Illinois Bureau of Tourism
As Chicago is a huge draw for its neighbours to the north – approximately 500,000 Canadians visited in 2011 – Kostner reiterated the Govenor’s point that there is plenty to do throughout the entire State.

“One of the things we’ve been really talking about is that Illinois is authentic America; that you can get all the experiences – from the urban experiences of the big city: the theatre, the shopping, the dining –  to Route 66 which has that iconic, kitschy, Americana with wonderful diners and the muffler men, and then you can get the history of the United States,” she explained.

“We believe that culture means business...If you’re looking for great theatre, lyric opera, the symphony – (we have) lots of culture,” Quinn told guests.

Four American presidents have roots in Illinois, including Abraham Lincoln and current President Barack Obama. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum offers travellers an experiential tour through the president’s life, located in the town of Springfield.

The State is also focusing on developing niche markets, Kostner explained, such wine tours.

“We have more than 60 wineries that you can go and visit, you can buy their wines, you can taste their wines, and sometimes during the year, you can help harvest,” she said.

Birding is another niche market they are looking to grow because of the State’s ideal location on the migration trail of a number of species.

Of course, who can forget that Route 66 and the Mississippi River are among two of the most iconic sites to be found in the State.

Getting Canadians to the Land of Lincoln, Porter Airlines flies five times daily from Toronto Billy Bishop Airport to Chicago Midway International Airport.

Winner of a trip to Chicago with Porter & Starwood
Winner of a trip to Chicago with Porter & Starwood
To connect visitors beyond the city centre, Quinn has been actively involved in the development of a high speed rail system linking Chicago to St. Louis, set to be complete by 2014, with other new routes to be added in the years following.

And, increasing the State’s visibility in Canada, Chicago recently appointed Connect Worldwide to be its Canadian representation.

“We think it will only help us grow,” Kostner said. “The more that we have people out there talking about the city and the State, the more I think it’s going to grow and the more interest. I do believe that marketing works and inviting people to come visit you – if you’re not, then someone else comes in and is able to take that space so out of sight is out of mind - so I think it’s really going to help.”

So, what was the Govenor’s final message for Canadians?

“Whether it’s culture, whether it’s nature, whether it’s seeing people, shopping, we really look forward to welcoming you with open arms,” Quinn said.