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JB Pritzker

Pritzker to RST students: Stay in Illinois


If there is one thing Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker knows about, it’s hospitality.

A member of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, Pritzker on Jan. 25 gave the opening remarks for the Sapora Symposium—organized by the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign—and implored students to “stay in Illinois.”

“My advice is stay in the state of Illinois because a lot is happening here that is going to be good for your careers,” said the 59-year-old Pritzker. “It's not just the governor trying to convince you to do something that you don’t want to do. It’s the governor telling you that I have seen a real change in the way this state thinks of itself and the opportunity that exists, particularly in travel and tourism and recreation.”

Pritzker was the invited speaker at the recent kickoff to the Sapora Symposium, a semester-long class that features alumni and other professionals who share insight on current issues in recreation, sport and tourism. This year’s theme, according to instructor Michael Raycraft, a teaching associate professor, is the “important roles for recreation, sport, and tourism agencies in the revival of the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of Chicagoland in the post-pandemic era.”

Among the topics that came up during the discussion with Pritzker—moderated by Raycraft and RST alumni and adjunct faculty member Carmen Rossi—were contemporary issues in parks, tourism and sport and their importance to Illinois’ future. 

“Not just because I come from a family that's been involved in tourism and the hospitality industry, but from a state perspective, it is one of the easiest ways to boost revenues,” Pritzker said.

Pritzker—a Democrat—touted his administration’s recent success in the tourism sphere, primarily securing the Democratic National Convention, slated for Aug. 19-22 at the United Center. 

“It is my job to get major conventions to come to the state,” he said. “In politics, it’s like the Super Bowl every four years. It brings 50,000 people, and they’re going to spend weeks on end beforehand, setting up and bringing people in. The delegations are going to fill all the hotels here.

“We won it for a couple of reasons. There are politics involved. But  … what mattered most was when (the DNC committee) came here, they were blown away. Because our hotels are in close proximity to one another. Hotels are close to all the places that the convention will take place. And everybody knows summer in Chicago is one of the best things in the world.”

Pritzker ended his remarks by saying the state’s “tourism economy is booming coming out of Covid.”

“My advice to you all is, stay in Illinois because we're headed in the right direction if you want to be in this economy, in this tourism and recreation world.”

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