Building tourism at lesser-known landmarks

By Matt Porter |

Published 07/11 2014 10:21PM

Updated 07/14 2014 10:56AM

PETERSBURG -- Record numbers of people are visiting Illinois and that's helping businesses at less well-known sites. WCIA-3's Capitol Bureau Chief Matt Porter went to one of the state's most historic villages for a look at how more tourists means more business.

Bringing tourists to stay at his log cabin-inspired hotel is a yearly challenge for manager and co-owner Richard Moss.

"It's that longest two miles in the state of Illinois, is between New Salem and Petersburg," Moss said.

Moss said it’s been a slow eight years as he and his partners built the River Bank Lodge from a defunct bank into an iconic inn. He spends most of his time spreading the word of his hideaway hotel in the middle of "Abraham Lincoln territory."

"If they're aware that we're here, they'll come,” Moss said.

He said his business has mostly developed through word-of-mouth and repeat customers.

"That's the most frequent comment we get,” Moss said, “is how nice the staff was to them."

The hotel depends on visitors coming to this historic village of New Salem just 20 miles north of Springfield.

“The sights, the sights,” said visitor Hannah Riva. “And the people are friendly and you just get to learn more about the historic aspects."

As an Illinois resident, Riva agrees the village is overlooked by most visiting Springfield.

"Because everybody is so into the city, and they're not into driving the 15 miles out here, outside of Springfield to come see it,” Riva said. “But they definitely should."

But some make the special trip, including Keith Helling from Montrose, Iowa, to see where Abe Lincoln's journey began.

"I haven't been here before, and it was just nice to see the scenery and environment and what it was like in the 1800's,” Helling said.

It's an experience not soon forgotten. Visitors spent $34.5 billion in Illinois which generated $2.6 billion in state and local revenue.

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