Galena's $200 million tourism industry taking hit from Illinois COVID-19 restrictions

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GALENA, Ill. (KWQC) - The tourism industry is feeling immediate impacts of the novel coronavirus. Destination-town Galena, Ill. is no exception.

Galena's Main Street has over 100 locally-owned businesses.

After several strong economic years, Galena's $200 million+ tourism industry is at a standstill as the State of Illinois continues to shelter in place because of COVID-19.

"This is a tourist town. There's no and's, if's, or but's about that. Galena thrives on tourism," Matt Blaum, Co-Founder of Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., said, "The impact it's had on us, everybody can feel it. It's weird. It's a weird town right now. Galena is always just thriving with tourists and now it's just nothing."

The over 100 locally-owned businesses on Main St. are normally filled with tourists from all over the Midwest.

"About 75% percent. For sure. 75% of business is from tourism. This is 100 percent local support right now. Its what we're staying open for," Jack Deiter of Big Bill's Coffee & Sandwich Shop said.

In 2018, Galena saw $204 million worth of tourism spending, a 3.8 percent growth from 2017. This resulted in $5.63 million in local tax revenue, a 2.3 percent increase from 2017. This money is spent on public services, including: roads, public safety, and education.

For now, local owners are shifting their businesses to online, delivery, and carry-out options as they wait for the threat of the virus to pass.

"Every little bit helps. We figured if we're out there and people are remembering us, then when it does pick back up, we just hope people remember us then too and keep us in mind," Alana Turner, Co-Owner of Poopsie's, said, "When we're all feeling good and safe going back outside in groups again, that hopefully people will flood to galena."

Meanwhile other businesses are taking the opportunity, and down time, to make improvements to their business.

"Kind of restructuring things to make it a little bit better. Seeing ways that we can build the business because when this does end, there could be a boom of tourism and we're going to get ready for that," Deiter said.

Galena's population is about 3,500 people. In 2018, the town's tourism industry resulted in $42 million in payroll.

"We have 1,100 tourism related jobs are supported, which is actually the same number of tourism jobs as Rock Island County. For a county of our size, which is only 22,000 on a good day, that's a pretty significant amount of people that are dependent on these tourism related jobs," Rose Noble, CEO & President of Galena Country Tourism, said.

White the closure of non-essential businesses is difficult for Galena, and many other parts of the country, these businesses owners are hopeful for a sense of normalcy in the near future.

"We were established in the early 1800s and have had quite a bit of things happen in that time that we've bounced back from. So we're very confident that we'll be able to pull together as a town and rally and get through this crisis, just like every other destination is going through," Noble said.