"Peoria is awesome!" That’s one of the many positive comments we’ve received lately from people who have never before been to this area. Over the past six weeks, three large conventions, two of them national and all of them holding their events in the Peoria area for the first time, conducted their business at the Peoria Civic Center, inhabited our hotels, broke bread at our restaurants, perused our shops, took in our attractions, and enjoyed the unique qualities that make this area a premiere convention destination. These three clients epitomize our mantra: just give Peoria a try, and you won’t be sorry.
Case in point: Five weeks ago, the national Society of Decorative Painters held its bi-annual convention in the Civic Center. The group’s meeting planner expected nearly 1,600 hotel rooms to be rented during the five-day event. To her pleasant surprise, nearly 2,100 (a 33% increase) were actually rented. For the first time in the group’s history, the Saturday night banquet was sold out days before it occurred. Another rarity happened when the group had to squeeze two more booths into the trade show floor because demand was so high. And this is a show that has been in Kansas City, Nashville and Tampa in past years.
"We are thrilled with Peoria," says Executive Director Elizabeth Stevenson. "We took a bit of a gamble coming here, but boy are we glad we did, because we love it."
It was a successful convention for everyone involved-the so-called "win win." Higher attendance, a sold-out banquet and higher demand for vendors meant more profit for the Decorative Painters. Those same factors meant more profit for the Peoria-area economy.
A few days later, the Illinois Association of Fire Protection Districts moved in. This is an organization that had been holding its annual convention in Springfield for more than 30 years. Until this year.
"Thank you for convincing us to come to Peoria," Stanley Seevers, who sits on the group’s board of directors, told us during the convention. "We’re looking forward to working with you for several years to come."
Right now, USA Roller Sports (USARS) is wrapping up a three-week stay in Carver Arena. The organization is holding its national championships in Peoria. That means elite athletes, their families and fans from all over the country are coming here. If projections mete out, this will become the single largest event, in terms of hotel rooms generated, the Peoria area has ever held.
The USARS speed skating event is on the list to become an Olympic sport in time for the 2016 games, which, if all goes as planned, will be held in Chicago. Translated: it’s a big deal for Peoria to host such a prestigious event.
Remember, these are all organizations that have never before hosted their events in Peoria, the very kind of lucrative business we need to attract. Now they are candidates for repeat business. More importantly, they are now tourism ambassadors for the Peoria area, because word travels fast in this industry. And the good news is, more and more of these types of clients are giving us a serious look these days, something unheard of in years past. iBi