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Renewing our Tourism Economy

Renewing our Tourism Economy
January 23, 2024 Billy George

The month of January presents a great opportunity to review data from the previous year and plan for the year ahead. In tourism, that means paying close attention to our hotel occupancy rates as well as the data provided by our geofencing software. These numbers are good metrics of the success of our visitor campaigns as well as an indicator of when people come to Freeport and Stephenson County and why.

Tourism plays a vital role in the Stephenson County economy. Visitors bring “new” money into our retailers, restaurants, and attractions while increasing foot traffic in each, as well. Looking at our spaces from the perspective of a visitor allows us to see the things we aspire to, not just the practical things to get us through. Creating the mindset that our city and county are a “destination” fills us with aspirations of all that can be accomplished.

With that vision in mind, the Partnership designs tourism campaigns to bring new people into our area to enjoy the outdoors, check out historical attractions, and try new retailers and restaurants. According to the data, these campaigns are successful! Stephenson County has a growing audience of visitors who are contributing to economic growth, traveling from the targeted areas the campaigns identified. Using geofencing software, we can see travelers from the Chicago suburbs, Madison, Dubuque, Milwaukee, and the Quad Cities are in the top 10 origination areas – all areas that were identified as target metro areas for the campaign. Additionally, the data shows over 100,000 people visited Stephenson County in 2023. For the purpose of these reports, visitors are considered people who travel to the area from over 50 miles away for an overnight stay.

Hotel occupancy reporting tells a similar story. In 2023, major hotels in Freeport saw an increase in room stays in the peak tourism months of June, July, and September over 2022 and were very comparable to the same rate in other months of the year. In total, more than 48,000 room nights were booked in hotels, with 28,000 of them being in the tourism season of May-October.

In short, visitors are traveling to Freeport and Stephenson County and the campaigns generated to bring them here are contributing to that success. We look forward to 2024 and all the opportunities to promote the beauty and hospitality of our area. The destination we create today will be the pride we promote tomorrow.

Nicole Haas, MIOP is the Brand Director for the Greater Freeport Partnership. She can be reached at or 815-801-3676.