The Peoria area hotel market has undergone a sea change in recent years, with new hotels popping up across the region and major enhancements made to current establishments. With so much going on, it seems the local hotel industry deserves some attention. To that end, we spoke with a number of area hoteliers, asking them to shed some light on the topic. Here’s what they had to say.
Diana Anderson: Director of Sales & Marketing, Embassy Suites East Peoria
Sami Qureshi: General Manager, Holiday Inn City Centre
Kristen Charlton: General Manager, Mark Twain Hotel
Joel Green: Director of Sales & Marketing, Hotel Père Marquette
Renée Draves: President, Petersen Hotels
Jan Quinton: General Manager, AmericInn Lodge & Suites
Mary Jo Schettler: Director Hotel Operations, Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino
Wingate by Wyndham
7708 N. Rt. 91
Peoria, IL 61615
Candlewood Inn & Suites
53 Landers Way
Peoria, IL 61615
Country Inn & Suites
5309 W. Landens Way
Peoria, IL 61615
From Healthcare to Hotels
The new kid on the block, Petersen Hotels is bringing exciting, limited-service brands to the northwest Peoria market. The Hotels at Grand Prairie—Wingate by Wyndham, Candlewood Inn & Suites and Country Inn & Suites—offer a long list of amenities guests have grown to expect, with an abundance of retail, restaurant and entertainment venues at the nearby Shoppes at Grand Prairie.
Expanding upon their original focus on healthcare, Petersen Companies ventured into the hotel industry when they realized that they already had most of the necessary departments and vendors. After identifying the demand, the company chose to take on another industry focused on customer service and hospitality—aspects of their business they felt they were already quite good at.
“We came away from the boardroom table saying, ‘yes, we should open hotels by The Shoppes,’” explained Vice President of Public Relations Doug Currier, “and the reason is that we already knew how to do hospitality. We’ve done it for 30 years in the long-term care industry and, while it is different, there are so many similarities.” At that point, Petersen Companies branched out and created a new company, Petersen Hotels.
What is your target market? To which types of visitors are you marketing?
Embassy Suites: Our target markets are associations, corporate travelers, social groups and families. Embassy Suites is nationally known as a family hotel on weekends, and we hope to eventually become that in the Peoria area.
Holiday Inn City Centre: Due to our large size, we can’t afford to just market or target one or two markets. We target a variety of market segments, such as corporate, leisure, sports, business, families, conventions, small groups, religious, social and military markets.
Mark Twain: Our location, size and “boutique” classification make our hotel most suited to business travelers during the week and wedding groups on weekends. We market to the more discerning traveler looking for a unique experience—something more than a cookie-cutter hotel. Since we aspire to project an image that is more than “just Peoria,” we are the perfect hotel choice for important clients, VIP employees, out-of-town friends and family—anyone who should receive the best possible first impression of Peoria.
Père Marquette: Although we would relish being simply a “corporate” hotel catering to the individual corporate traveler—and a good portion of our business is just that—we work very hard to attract groups: corporate, associations and fraternal organizations. In fact, our mix is actually more than 60 percent group business.
Petersen Hotels: Our buildings are in the ramp-up phase, so any and all. Seriously, in a few years, we feel that we’ll have a product for everyone. Country Inn is like being at home, but being a guest; Wingate is spacious, cool and corporate; and Candlewood Suites is like having a short-term lease in a really nice studio apartment. Once our other brands come on board, we’ll have something to suit everyone’s taste.
AmericInn: Our target market is mainly corporate guests. However, families and sporting groups drive weekend business. We do very well with family reunions, as our homey atmosphere is very popular and our location works well with sporting groups.
Par-A-Dice: Our target market includes customers who live as far as 300 miles from Peoria. We target not only leisure travelers and gaming guests, but also corporate and convention sales through our full-service sales department. In addition, our tour and travel division works solely with bus groups developing day and overnight casino guests, as well as specialty packages.
What are some recent trends in the hotel industry?
Embassy Suites: A trend that I have seen change throughout my years in the hotel industry is how people are making their reservations. Twenty years ago, you didn’t have Travelocity, you didn’t have Expedia—the different channels of booking a reservation. In other words, the old way was to pick up the phone and call an 800 number to make a reservation—now you can just go online.
This has significantly decreased the number of reservation staff members from an entire department focused on helping guests book rooms to one person. With people being able to book 24 hours a day, however, you really have to manage your inventory and strategy on a daily basis.
AmericInn Lodge & Suites
9106 N. Lindbergh Dr.
Peoria, IL 61615,
At Home on the Road
AmericInn strives to make their guests feel at home. By conversing, laughing and joking with clients, they make their guests comfortable while traveling. Guest stays are also enhanced by the friendly staff and an inviting lobby. The hotel opened in May 2000, with a new addition completed in March of this year. With 24 additional guest rooms, five of which are extended-stay suites, and a larger meeting room, the hotel has much more to offer its guests.
“RLI is a big part of the reason we’re here,” said General Manager Jan Quinton. Because RLI—which is just across the street—brings so many visitors to town, they were focused on getting a hotel in close proximity to their office. AmericInn has a similar relationship with ATS and Caterpillar. As the closest hotel property to Cat’s Mossville plant, they are another of AmericInn’s biggest customers.
Holiday Inn City Centre: The ADR (average daily rate) has been on the rise in most recent months/years. The hotel industry has become very high-tech and automated in areas that used to be strictly people-oriented. The industry has been growing, not only in the U.S., but globally. Intercontinental Hotels (the parent company of Holiday Inn and the largest hotel chain in the world) is truly a global company and a major part of international growth in the industry.
Mark Twain: I have seen a very positive trend in the industry—listening to guests’ needs and providing more and better amenities. The Mark Twain Hotel was a pioneer in Peoria for providing free internet access, and now it’s become very common. This will soon be taken for granted, just like soap.
Speaking of soap, in-room amenities have also seen great improvement. Boutique hotels usually provide name-brand or upscale bath amenities (the Mark Twain provides Bath and Body Works), but chains are even beginning to team up with recognizable, quality brands. Higher thread count sheets, towels that don’t feel like sandpaper—these trends have all come about in response to guests’ higher expectations.
Père Marquette: With so many corporate travelers on the road these days, hotels have tried to recreate a “home away from home” atmosphere with less “institutional” furniture and fixtures, opting for a more residential look and feel to guest rooms and lobby areas.
The industry is striving to become “greener.” It’s become commonplace for guests to be given the option of reusing their towels and linens. More and more hotels that used to provide bottled water for guestroom use and meeting attendees are now reverting to glass bottles for guestrooms and water pitchers for meetings.
Where once it was an amenity that guests paid for, more hotels are providing complimentary internet service, both high-speed and wireless. Catering departments are becoming more and more conscious of guests’ desire for healthier meals and coffee break menus. No smoking in the entire hotel is also an obvious benefit to those with health concerns. With rates climbing, hotels are looking for additional ways to add value, especially in second-tier cities.
Petersen Hotels: Many brands across service levels are now offering many of the same amenities, like complimentary breakfasts, wireless internet, social hours, etc. The key to differentiating your hotel is to deliver the highest levels of service. What brings people back time after time is great service.
AmericInn: Hotel trends have changed in the last couple of years with new bedding packages and upscale amenities. High-speed internet is a MUST these days.
Par-A-Dice: The demand for quality product, safety and the “comforts of home” has really driven the industry to a higher level. In our region, the industry has become very diverse, offering a full range of prices and amenities. Travelers have more variety to choose from based on their expectations, which has created more competition within the market.
Mark Twain Hotel
225 NE Adams St.
Peoria, IL 61602
The Boutique Experience
Prior to becoming mayor, Bud Grieves purchased the property in Downtown Peoria which would become the Mark Twain Hotel. “It was humbly born in 1969 as a Howard Johnson Moor Lodge and also spent time as a Quality Inn, which failed. At the time of purchase, the property was abandoned by all but the last guests—pigeons,” reported General Manager Kristen Charlton.
Even in its run-down state, Grieves recognized that the property had great potential and invested a substantial amount of his own money on renovations. The hotel reopened in 1990 as the Best Western Mark Twain, but the “first true step toward becoming a boutique hotel came six years later, when we dropped the Best Western flag and became an independent property,” explained Charlton.
While boutique has become one of those words that means something different to everybody, Charlton said there are three characteristics which always define a truly boutique hotel: small, fashionable and unique.
“Boutique hotels are not so much about ‘heads in beds’ as they are about providing a positive, unique experience to their customers,” she explained. “For boutique hotels, this experience is provided via an intimate atmosphere and a certain level of customized service.” Like most boutique hotels, the Mark Twain has fewer rooms than chain hotels—110 rooms on eight floors with only 12 to 14 rooms per floor.
According to Charlton, fashionable doesn’t merely apply to décor, but to amenities as well. “As an independent hotel, this was the most challenging and interesting part of becoming boutique. No one at corporate handed down a list of furniture and carpet or told us which towels and soap to buy.”
A hotel cannot be boutique if it is not unique. “The Mark Twain Hotel provides an environment which cannot be found anywhere else—we are one of a kind. We’ve found that our customers truly appreciate this. We are a break from an industry where everything starts to look the same. You wake up and can’t remember what city you’re in because the room looks the same as the last 10 you’ve been in. Our guests wake up and see the Mark Twain Hotel and know they’re in Peoria.”
Describe the current state of the Peoria area hotel industry.
Holiday Inn City Centre: I have seen a lot of limited-service hotels being developed in the Peoria area in the last few months. I believe Peoria has a great variety of hotels to offer to individual travelers, as well as groups of any size.
Mark Twain: From my perspective, Peoria’s hotel industry is finally putting up a fight against the “Just Peoria” stigma. Peoria is a wonderful convergence of Midwestern small-town friendliness and larger-city conveniences. The problem is the perception—local and nationwide—that Peoria is “just” a small town between St. Louis and Chicago, and we don’t have any decent hotels, so rates should be low. We struggled against this perception throughout our transition to a boutique hotel. We raised our rates to reflect the renovated rooms and increased amenities and were often met with resistance from the market. “HOW much are your rooms? But it’s JUST Peoria!” Of course once they stay here, they realize that’s just not true anymore.
Fortunately, our city and surrounding communities have seen advancements which are helping to improve general perceptions of the Peoria area. The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, the expansion of the Civic Center, hospital expansions, the development of the Med-Tech district, and even the new Embassy Suites have us going in the right direction and are allowing hotels to demand a healthier rate. It is vital for the Peoria area to continue in this direction in order to support the existing number of hotel rooms and any additional rooms in the works.
Père Marquette: Peoria suffers from an overabundance of hotel rooms, and at the same time, doesn’t have enough rooms downtown to grow our convention business, especially in view of the newly expanded Civic Center. Simultaneously, the Embassy Suites’ new convention center is in direct competition with our Civic Center for some of the smaller conventions.
Meeting planners booking the large, city-wide conventions with needs of 1,000 to 1,200 rooms are looking for one of two things: either a hotel that can house everything under one roof, or a Civic Center with a hotel—or hotels—that are linked. We can’t grow the convention business without the rooms, and without the conventions no one can build more rooms. Catch-22.
The obvious and most economical solution is to build the bridge between the Hotel Pere Marquette and the Civic Center that we have been talking about for 20 years. By doing so, we would attract more conventions for which a “linked” property is vital. In return, we build business for the Civic Center and then, when the downtown hotels start seeing their occupancies finally moving upward, we, as a city, can look again at building another full-service hotel downtown.
Petersen Hotels: The Peoria market traveler is fortunate to have lots of choices. There are lots of brands, lots of buildings and lots of locations. The key for them is finding one that’s willing to establish a relationship, has kept up with the changing needs of the guests and offers great value. Many of Peoria’s buildings are older and in need of updates, both structurally and aesthetically. We respect the tradition of the older, bigger buildings, but hope to make our own path with scaled-down, state-of-the-industry products.
AmericInn: Rooms in Peoria are definitely more abundant these days. I’m not sure how much new business there is. I think we are all sharing what we have.
Par-A-Dice: Peoria is experiencing the largest growth in its hotel industry in decades. The increase in properties and competition has forced the local industry to become competitive in pricing and services offered. It does seem that there is a lot of shifting of business in the area—while the variety is available, the volume of business to support all of these properties is not here yet. The new product coupled with the Civic Center should help to attract more convention groups regionally, but it will take a few years to realize this gain. This development is an investment in the future and faith in the growth of the area.
How does tourism drive occupancy of hotel rooms? What is the current state of tourism in central Illinois?
Embassy Suites: Having attractions and amenities in a safe, fun city is the key to driving occupancy to the hotels. We know that when people come to Peoria, let’s face it, we’re not a destination. But, what I have found in the tourism industry is that people are shortening their vacations, so they’re more apt to take the two-, three-, four-day vacations. In order to capture that business, however, you have to have a safe, clean area, and you have to sell “where we are.” Our website includes links to several Peoria area attractions, such as O’Brien Field, Splashdown Water Park and Bradley University, to show potential guests that Peoria does have fun and interesting things to do.
Holiday Inn City Centre
500 Hamilton Blvd.
Peoria, IL 61602
Give Kids the World
The Holiday Inn City Centre has 324 guest rooms and more than 21,000 square feet of meeting and convention space. It is attached to Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern and is the only hotel with a full-size, indoor swimming pool in Downtown Peoria. It is operated by Kinseth Hotel Corporation, a growing hospitality management company with 32 franchised hotels and restaurants across the Midwest.
The Holiday Inn City Centre has been a strong advocate for the Give Kids The World (GKTW) program, a Florida-based charitable organization which helps terminally ill kids and their families visit Disney World at no cost. In the last year alone, 300 kids from Illinois were flown to Orlando and hosted by GKTW. The hotel has raised more than $10,000 for this cause in the last few years, with the goal of raising $75,000 in the next three years to purchase a villa in the GKTW village, which would ensure that kids from our state (and/or neighboring states) can have a great place to stay. Visit gktw.org to learn more or contact the hotel for more details.
Holiday Inn City Centre: The tourism industry helps hotel occupancy tremendously—they go hand-in-hand. Travelers need a place to make their home away from home. Tourism cannot grow without solid support from the hotel community, and vice versa. I see the tourism industry improving in central Illinois because we have tremendous amenities, attractions and traditions to be proud of.
Mark Twain: According to the Encarta dictionary, tourism is “travel to benefit from a particular service or activity that is unavailable at home.” Such travel drives occupancy of hotel rooms only when the service or activity is either far enough away from home to necessitate an overnight stay or when there is enough to do at the destination to warrant staying more than one day.
I think Peoria has an excellent base of services and activities which attract people from all over central Illinois. People come to Peoria for movie theaters, shopping, the Glen Oak Zoo, Riverfront festivals, concerts, the Spirit of Peoria, sporting events, etc. The trick is providing enough to make them stay overnight. The more Peoria has to offer, the more likely people will be to book a room, stay overnight and do more the next day!
People love to get away from their homes/routines and spend quality time with spouses and children. Coming to Peoria is an easier, more economical way to do this than going to Chicago or St. Louis. The Riverfront museum/theater and the Peoria Playhouse are two more attractions in the works which would help make Peoria more than a day trip.
Père Marquette: The kind of tourism that drives hotel occupancies requires sustainable attractions, even if seasonal. It’s not enough that a motorcoach comes into East Peoria to visit the Festival of Lights if it simply loads up to travel on to the Amana Colonies or Branson, or worse yet, turns around and goes home the same day. “Day tripping” isn’t the kind of business that maximizes tourism revenues. We need enough attractions to extract at least one overnight and two meals.
Recall the old Julia Belle Swain? Those of us in the industry can attest to the number of motorcoach groups that came in to take the boat up to Starved Rock. Before boarding the boat, they would take a historical tour, visit the Ag Lab, Wheels ‘O Time and Lakeview Museums—I’m sure there were others—then overnighted in one of our hotels before boarding the boat the following morning. The Spirit of Peoria still enjoys some of these same groups.
With the inception of the Festival of Lights, followed by the Par-A-Dice, we saw another spurt of growth in tourism. As a city, we attended many travel shows hoping to attract more and more senior groups…and we still see them, but not to the extent we had hoped. Even so, a motorcoach group coming from 80 to 100 miles out can easily put together two days of activities in the Peoria area. The Par-A-Dice, as a “sustainable attraction,” would be even more valuable to our area if we could use it as a base on which to build more family-oriented attractions.
Embassy Suites East Peoria
100 Conference Dr.
East Peoria, IL 61611
The Hammons Work Ethic
John Q. Hammons operates 76 hotels and is the number-one franchisee of Embassy Suites. The Embassy Suites in East Peoria is his first in Illinois, and it is the first full-service hotel to be built from the ground up in the Peoria area in 50 years. With the attached Riverfront Conference Center, the hotel offers 35,000 square feet of meeting space—more than any other hotel in the Peoria area—in addition to 226 two-room suites and an array of amenities for all types of travelers.
Hammons thrives on superior service and high quality in all of his hotels, and his strong work ethic is carried down to all levels of employees. According to Director of Sales & Marketing Diana Anderson, Embassy Suites is different from other hotels in that all employees, from management to housekeeping to front desk clerks, “had to go through an extensive, thorough training program, and in order for us to open our doors, they had to pass an exam…I’ve never seen that before. I’ve been in the business for 20 years now, and this is the first time I’ve had formal training.”
Caterpillar tours are popular year-round, especially with military reunion groups, and the Wheels O’ Time Museum never ceases to amaze visitors. Peoria’s historical tours are quite popular, but as hoteliers, we’re especially excited about the new wineries popping up. These tours offer new possibilities for travelers of a different genre that could merge traditional tourists with our meetings market attendees. Other attractions that appeal to a broader spectrum of travelers include The Lavender Farm east of Pekin and Tanner’s Orchard for summer and fall groups. Without a doubt, the new downtown Museum and Cat Visitor’s Center would add a tremendous boost to tourism in our area.
The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, in conjunction with the different sporting venues, has done an incredible job of attracting teams of all kinds to our city; this is great business for our hotels!
The Riverfront has all the makings of an incredible attraction. Our summer festivals and the Riverfront Farmer’s Market both make for wonderful add-ons to weekend packages. But, to become a really viable tourist destination, we need to develop an attraction downtown that would be unique, and yet, ever-changing, to bring visitors back for more than for just one visit.
Keep in mind that the same kind of attractions that bring tourists to town will also help us attract conventions and meetings, as well as family and military reunions. When talking with prospective meeting planners, we hear “Okay, other than a Civic Center and a hotel, what else is there to do?” Look what an indoor water park did for a small town in Wisconsin (now called the Wisconsin Dells!). We need to think bigger if we’re going to compete for the tourism dollars.
Petersen Hotels: Tourism continues to play an important role in Peoria’s hotel industry. Our corporate market—Monday through Thursday—is quite strong. Tourism and leisure travelers are what fill the softer, “shoulder” nights, weekends and slow seasons. It’s important that facilities like the beautifully expanded Civic Center continue to thrive; we all feed off each other to help our community remain strong. It is critical that Peoria comes up with a solution to support the investment made in that facility.
AmericInn: Tourism definitely drives the occupancy in our hotels. I’ve never considered Peoria a “destination” spot for tourists unless they are coming in for Caterpillar. I’m happy to see the zoo upgrading and await the museum decision.
Par-A-Dice: Sports tourism continues to be an opportunity and is growing in our region. But in general, tourism and leisure travel is not increasing in the area. The growth we are seeing seems to be in corporate and convention travel. Some additional leisure travel is being realized with the expanded entertainment offered at the Civic Center.
Hotel Père Marquette
501 Main St.,
Peoria, IL 61602
Heritage & History
The Hotel Père Marquette was named for Father Jacques Marquette, a French explorer who, with Louis Joliet, founded Fort Pimiteoui on the nearby banks of the Illinois River. When the hotel was dedicated in 1927, it was unrivaled for its size and the beauty of its modern facilities—14 stories, 500 guest rooms, a ladies’ smoking room and 800-guest ballroom. Julian Abele, the Père’s architect, was the first African-American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s architecture program, who went on to design the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia.
The owners spent nearly $20 million in the early 1980s restoring this historic hotel and have worked hard to maintain its architectural integrity ever since. The account of the founding by Marquette and Joliet is portrayed throughout: a sculpture of Father Marquette appears above the Main Street entrance; the lobby features a 1926 mural by George Harding depicting the landing of Marquette and Joliet on the shores of what is now Peoria; and the mural in the Cotillion ballroom, also by Harding, depicts the explorers’ departure from France. “Built during Prohibition,” Green said, “our guests especially delight in the secret liquor cabinet that was added to the Presidential Suite.” Attesting to its historic presence, the Père Marquette is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Is there a need for more hotel rooms in downtown Peoria? Do you believe the proposed Hospitality Improvement Zone (HIZ) is a step in the right direction?
Holiday Inn City Centre: I believe this is not the right time to add more hotel rooms to downtown Peoria. Combined, downtown Peoria hotels have not even been running a 55 percent YTD occupancy for the last several years. All downtown hotels have re-invested money and recently upgraded. The Holiday Inn City Centre is currently undergoing multi-million dollar renovations to stay competitive. I believe the existing hotels should be at least 65 percent YTD occupancy for us to start thinking about adding another hotel downtown. With the addition of the new Embassy Suites, we have more hotel rooms to offer to potential conventions.
Mark Twain: Yes, the Civic Center needs more rooms to be able to compete for larger conventions, but there’s more to booking a convention than size. Conventions are also looking for an attractive locale which can provide their attendees with a variety of things to do and see within walking distance of the venue. For this reason, I would like to see Downtown Peoria push harder to gain more services and attractions before building more hotel rooms. Hotels will follow naturally; just look at North Peoria!
I work for a hotel owner who has chosen to reinvest profits into our hotel rather than put them in his pocket. We have not only maintained our hotel, but improved it. And we have been successful! The Mark Twain Hotel is proof that it is possible for a downtown hotel to be self-sustaining. For this reason I have issue with the city using tax money to help others do what we’ve shown can be done independently. I am of the opinion that a tax may very well be in order, but that it could be put to much better use and benefit everyone downtown for the long term.
Downtown Peoria needs to create a better draw of steady local leisure traffic, pure and simple. Downtown Peoria needs something to bring people down here after 5pm—something unique that they do not already have close to their homes. We have the advantage of a beautiful riverfront locale, but it cannot survive Peoria’s “urban sprawl” without a major attraction.
What is this elusive “something” that will bring people downtown? It’s not so elusive. It’s actually in the works, but has been stymied by lack of funding—the Riverfront Museum and giant-screen theater. I must say here, too, that the theater is as or even more important than the museum to create maximum draw after 5pm. Spend the tax money on the museum/theater, and business will snowball from there. With increased leisure traffic downtown will come more restaurants and retail businesses that remain healthy and strong. These things, combined with a beautiful, unique Riverfront would surely draw the right hotel investor, not only solving the Civic Center’s rooms problem, but also giving them a locale which would surely seal many convention deals.
With more leisure traffic, Downtown Peoria could even see a company-operated Starbucks retail store before East Peoria! Wouldn’t that be a coup? I can’t tell you how many of our business guests ask for the nearest Starbucks. “What?! I can’t walk to a Starbucks from here?!” There is just something about Starbucks which lends credibility to an area in the eyes of out-of-town guests. I’ve contacted them myself about opening a company store down here, but apparently the numbers don’t add up yet!
Père Marquette: Absolutely! The Hospitality Improvement Zone could be the precise answer we’re all looking for to create the kind of additional support needed by downtown hotels. Until that happens, however, we don’t see the need for more hotel rooms in Downtown Peoria—or even out near the mall areas, for that matter.
Petersen Hotels: Visitors to our community continue to seek quality hotel rooms in the downtown area, whether it’s for a conference, event or business. The key is providing the highest levels of product and quality available. Many have tried; few have succeeded in that battle.
AmericInn: As far as more rooms in the downtown area, with the Embassy Suites open, I think they are all sharing the same business. Larger conventions are needed to make the Civic Center profit, but if there were no conventions for weeks or months, what will they do with all the rooms?
As far as the HIZ, upkeep is extremely important with any property. If these businesses need tax dollars to upgrade their properties because they’ve neglected to improve when the profits were there, I’m sorry, but that’s not fair to the businesses that have.
What are some of the unique amenities your hotel offers?
Par-a-Dice Hotel Casino
21 Blackjack Blvd.
East Peoria, IL 61611
A Regional Attraction
As a local and regional gaming destination, the Par-A-Dice Hotel Casino is a major tourist attraction for the Peoria area. Boyd Gaming Corporate Design created the interior of the hotel; its décor is Art Deco with a European flair. In 2007, all rooms were completely remodeled and their suite offering was expanded. Par-A-Dice staff takes great pride in providing superior quality in catering and service, and all event space is located on the main floor of the hotel, making it easily accessible.
The casino is open from 9am to 6am daily, offering over 35,000 square feet of gaming. Complimentary parking is available, and three restaurants—including a gourmet steakhouse—and a variety of amenities are available for the enjoyment of guests. On January 1, 2008, the facility became completely smoke-free with the exception of a single floor of hotel rooms. Smoking shelters are provided throughout the property for the convenience of guests.
Embassy Suites: All of our rooms—not just some—are two-room suites. There’s an actual door that closes from the private living room area to the guest suite. Each suite is equipped with a safe, refrigerator, microwave, two flat screen TVs, Herman Miller office chair and pull-out sofa bed. Guests are treated to a daily cook-to-order breakfast and nightly manager’s reception.
Another unique amenity we have is Hilton Honors. Because we’re part of the Hilton family, guests can earn points and miles for airlines by becoming Hilton Honors members.
Our atrium also makes Embassy Suites unique. Mr. Hammons only builds atrium hotels. It’s a security thing—no one ever walks down hallways by themselves and everyone is seen at all times. Hammons started doing this in the late ‘70s when women started getting into the workforce. He felt it was a lot safer for women business travelers if they’re not walking down hallways by themselves.
Holiday Inn City Centre: We can accommodate all sizes of groups because of our size. Bennigan’s adds a great dimension to our property, as does our global name, Intercontinental Hotel Group. We have an indoor swimming pool and complimentary high-speed wireless connectivity throughout our hotel. We are located close to Caterpillar headquarters, the Peoria Civic Center and I-74, among other major attractions.
Mark Twain: Our standard amenities are quite numerous and have always included drinks, breakfast, free parking, in-room DVD players, a DVD library, free wired and wireless internet, newspaper, shuttle transportation, Bath and Body Works bath amenities and Seattle’s Best in-room coffee. Some additional amenities which make us even more unique are: chocolate chip cookie delivery to guest rooms on Monday nights, complimentary passes to the RiverPlex, fresh apples and our new library with Starbucks coffee machine.
Père Marquette: No hotel in downstate Illinois has more suites than we do! There are 36 spectacular suites that range in size from the opulent 12th floor presidential suite (2,200 square feet) to the junior suites located on each floor, suited perfectly for weekend family travelers. There are six Jacuzzi suites, 14 king suites, five king parlor suites and 18 juniors. At the Hotel Pere Marquette, a suite isn’t called a “suite” unless it has at least two separate rooms. Most of the “premium” suites boast not only half baths for guests, but also wet bars, fridges and microwaves.
We offer a complimentary hot buffet breakfast for all, two concierge floors with upgraded amenities, complimentary parking for overnight guests, three business centers with complimentary use of computers, fax and printers, and free internet access and wi-fi throughout the building.
Petersen Hotels: Our hotels offer gorgeous new facilities and proximity to the finest Peoria has to offer in shopping, restaurants, entertainment, golf, a winery and even medical facilities. We’re just minutes from I-74, Downtown Peoria and the Greater Peoria Airport.
AmericInn: We just opened our new addition at the end of March with 24 more guest rooms and a larger meeting room. Five of those 24 are extended-stay suites—one-bedroom suites, each with a living room, kitchen and bedroom. What’s unique about them is that guests have the capability, with a room on either side, to adjoin with others’ suites to make them be either one-, two- or three-bedroom suites.
We also offer whirlpool suites, which are few and far between in Peoria. Our hot tubs are right in the bedrooms instead of in the bathroom, so each suite has a full bathroom as well as a whirlpool in the bedroom.
Par-A-Dice: Obviously, the casino is our most unique amenity, offering adult guests an exciting form of live entertainment. Wireless internet service is complimentary and available throughout the hotel. We also feature a luxury bedding package, workstations and flat-screen TVs. We’re able to host a variety of conventions and social events each year with our 20,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space. We feel our “Boyd Style” of customer service makes every visit to Par-A-Dice a truly memorable experience.
CAN I PARK MY SPACESHIP IN YOUR LOT?
When you work in the hospitality industry, odd requests have a way of finding you. Sami Qureshi of the Holiday Inn City Centre said the oddest request his hotel received was a guest who thought the hotel provided complimentary shuttle service to the Chicago area and insisted that he be provided that service.
The Mark Twain’s Kristen Charlton noted the wide variety of people from all over the globe and all walks of life with whom workers in the hotel industry come into contact. “Needless to say,” she said, “our staff has been presented with some very amusing questions and situations: ‘Can we bring four cats?’ ‘Did Mark Twain stay here?’ ‘Can I park my spaceship in your lot?’ (This one is true—I was there, and the person was serious!), and, of course, the ever-popular, ‘Do you rent by the hour?’ (No, we don’t.)”
The Père Marquette’s Joel Green said, “I think the two mountain bikes, complete with all safety gear, for David Lee Roth was interesting! I suppose if it had been for anyone else it wouldn’t have seemed quite that strange.”
If your job doesn’t provide enough day-to-day entertainment, maybe the hospitality industry has something to offer you. According to our panelists, there’s never a boring day at a hotel!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Embassy Suites: We are very proud to bring a new, full-service, brand hotel to the Peoria community. We are a brand hotel, and people buy brands. People are loyal, especially when traveling all over the country or the world. You can usually get pretty consistent with a name brand. Once again, it goes back to service and the quality of the staff we have and how educated they are at what they’re doing.
Mark Twain: A key component to the Mark Twain Hotel’s success as a boutique property is its independent status and our ownership/management style. The lack of corporate regulation requires us to fend for ourselves. Our approach to this situation has been not to micro-manage and dictate from the top down how things are, but to listen to our guests and our employees and let wants and needs “trickle up.” As an independent hotel, we have the ability to react quite quickly to the market. Our services and amenities can change on a dime if we need them to; no need to wait for approval from an office somewhere far away.
We’ve found that our management and front-line employees take more ownership of their positions in such an environment because their feedback is taken very seriously and is used to plot our course. Because of this, we tend to have a lower employee turnover rate than most hotels. Among our managers and supervisors alone, we have a combined total of over 70 years experience—not in the hospitality industry in general, but at the Mark Twain Hotel alone (this total includes only hotel employees, not food and beverage). This is quite amazing, considering our small size! With this kind of employee retention, it’s obvious that we are passionate about what we do. The great thing is that this passion then trickles down to our guests and they can see and feel that they are more than just another “head in a bed.”
Père Marquette: The Hotel Père Marquette continues to provide the unique experience of a National Landmark Historic Facility while providing all of the modern technology and services required by today’s traveling public. There will never be another facility like the Père in Peoria!
Petersen Hotels: Petersen Hotels is proud to join the Peoria lodging community. We hope to enjoy the same success that Petersen Healthcare has had throughout the state.
AmericInn: I have found the need for extended-stay facilities in this area. With Caterpillar relocations and the boom in Dunlap, temporary housing for families is in demand, which is part of the reason why we’ve added rooms to our hotel. Our addition of one, two- and three-bedroom suites should be a positive one in this part of town.