Word on the street is that almost $1 million to lure visitors to our beloved area is a lot to spend on advertising. But to those in the tourism business, the number needs to at least double. Let’s face it: what attracts us to visit other cities?

Usually there’s a major draw—a convention to attend. If held in an area with warm climate, great shopping, fine dining, and other attractions for the trailing spouse or kids, it helps make the decision to attend—and maybe stay a day or two longer.

Sometimes it’s the lure of water: a lake or river with beaches, sightseeing, boating, and attractions we can walk to easily. Sunshine, safety, and cleanliness make it a fun recreational weekend for the family.

It could be a special exhibit at a museum or gallery that catches our eye first—the Chihuly or Picasso or perhaps a nationally acclaimed juried art fair. An overnight getaway in a historic downtown area with fine dining, other galleries, museums, and night life, throw in a bit of shopping, and it looks like a great weekend. A no-hassle car ride or available taxi or limo from the airport to the hotel would make the decision easy.

If golfing is important, a nearby resort, other recreational activities, and fine dining would complete the package.

If you track the next destination of your favorite entertainers or traveling Broadway productions, you just might be able to afford a ticket in a second- or third-tier city. Unless you just had to drive across town, the idea of making a mini-getaway sounds inviting. Fine dining, comfortable hotels to choose from, after-theater entertainment, shopping—they all make the ticket price more attractive.

A sports event perhaps? Baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, football—one has to still eat and sleep.

The Peoria Civic Center has done its homework, and construction has begun. It makes sense to partner with the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, which is in the “heads on beds” business. It takes more than a grand civic center building to lure those visitors, however. We have the major components in place: a variety of hotels, fine dining, golf courses, museums, a zoo, symphony, opera, ballet, parks, hiking and biking trails, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey, indoor football, lakes and the river, shopping, etc. Many of these amenities are being expanded and upgraded—right before our eyes.

It’ll take all of these organizations to lure visitors; it will take support and encouragement by those of us who make our homes in central Illinois. We have a great story to tell first. After we attract the visitors, we have to deliver on what’s being promised by the marketers. They may just want to stay! AA!