How Cannatourism Could Boost The Economy in Illinois

Updated: Apr 7

Cannatourism is a trend on the rise on a global scale in places where cannabis is legal even in the time since the global COVID-19 pandemic decimated economies all over the world. Here in Illinois for example, travel and tourism have been down and out for over 12 months as the country continues to get back on track in the aftermath of the health crisis.

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However, one area of tourism never took a break. We’re talking of course about cannabis tourism. If you look at recreational states, like Colorado and California for example, trends are indicating that cannabis tourism never really went anywhere. In 2020, Colorado still experienced lots of visitors even with mask mandates after the shelter in place orders were lifted.

And they weren’t just here for the skiing, mind you. In a study conducted in 2018, 6.2% of people who visited Colorado said that legal marijuana was one of the main reasons they visited the state. Since 2014, cannabis tourism in the state has grown over 60% according to a report from the state’s department of revenue, attracting over 6.5 million cannabis visitors in 2016. The report also said that those 6.5 million tourists logged 18 million cannabis-use days in 2016, demonstrating how Colorado racked up more than $5.2 billion in marijuana sales since it legalized cannabis in 2014.

But What About Illinois?

We’re already seeing a similar momentum in Illinois. The search trends for marijuana-related activities in every legal market are on the rise, especially now as the vaccine has become more readily available and the country begins shifting back to business as usual. Marijuana tourism in the Prarie State is projected to be on par with other legal markets by 2025.

There is a demand for cannabis tourism in legal states, and historical data from other states indicates that pot tourism has an awful lot of pros and very few cons, creating a world of opportunities for small businesses to grow and develop in Illinois.

Cannabis is the future

As we shift into the brave new world post-COVID and into the lucrative cannabis industry that is catching fire in just about every legal state and country on the planet, you’ll note that momentum has slowly been building not only since the first states legalized cannabis in 2012, but since way back when Amsterdam first allowed people to travel to the Netherlands and partake in cannabis. Amsterdam has had a lucrative cannabis tourism scene for years, with many visitors to Europe taking a special detour to experience a coffee shop in Amsterdam.

Other countries are ramping up and capitalizing on cannabis, too. Thailand is planning to attract foreign businesses using cannabis tours and their cannabis industry while places like Mexico and Spain are pushing to legalize altogether as an economic driver. Canada has also set aside a huge portion of the money they made from legalizing cannabis to help provide economic relief to people and businesses that lost their footing during the health crisis.

A lot of the money generated through the cannabis industry doesn’t have anything to do with selling the plant, either. When people think about the cannabis industry, they think of pot stores on every corner and a large influx of tourists with no money coming to smoke weed and do nothing else. Though that’s just not the case.

According to research from the Colorado Tourism Office (CTO) with partner Strategic Marketing and Research Insights (SMARI), the average visitor to Denver, for example, spends about $1870 per trip to Colorado. However, travelers who budget cannabis and cannabis activities into their trip spend $1930 on the same trip. Essentially, people who partake in cannabis tourism spend more money during their vacation and tend to stay longer, too.

What's Next?

As more and more cities, states, and countries become aware of this, the stronger the push to get involved becomes. Cannabis brings with it a culture, an educational interest, and thousands and thousands of tourists who wish to partake in something they can’t partake in at home. They’re coming to the state and spending money on food, shopping, and entertainment, but also on cannabis, cannabis shopping, and cannabis entertainment. With that said, the attraction will always remain.

Just as cannabis offers a rich, emotional history in the same way as food, there are a lot of opportunities to stimulate the economy in Illinois when we embrace cannabis tourism with open arms instead of approaching it with fear. Instead of asking “will this attract the wrong crowd?”, embrace the fact that most travelers are just inquisitive and curious about the industry and want to learn more about the benefits of the plant while others just want to take selfies in front of big cannabis plants for social media.

The cannabis industry and all of the lucrative adjacent and supporting industries is currently worth about $23.8 billion and projected to increase 20% every year for the next several years. Cannabis tourism has saved economies all over the globe, improved cities and infrastructure, and poured money into roads, schools, and hospitals. Cannatourism without a doubt can boost the economy in Illinois thanks to its legal market. We just have to get ready.


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