With deference to Paul Revere, who proclaimed “The British are coming!”, I am equally excited to exclaim that the visitors are coming to the Peoria area. Call them tourists, call them delegates, call them visitors…but no matter what you call them, they represent an economic tsunami for our region.
You may recall that in a previous column for this magazine I shared what the visitor’s money does for you. In this chapter and verse, I felt it prudent to share with you what your Peoria Area Convention & Visitors Bureau does, how we do it and what the results of our sales and marketing efforts are for the local economy.
First…what we do. The Peoria Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (PACVB) is the only recognized and sanctioned organization to market the Peoria area to the world, with the direct purpose of getting visitors to come our way, sleep in our hotels and spend money with our business partners. As the destination marketing organization for the Peoria area, our staff of 16 has the responsibility of marketing the eight counties we represent and promoting the hotels, restaurants, attractions and services within these counties to potential guests throughout the world.
Second…how do we do it. Your PACVB is funded entirely from a portion of the local hotel sales tax paid by visitors and guests who occupy hotel rooms. So, unless you stay in one of our area hotels (and we hope you do from time to time), we receive absolutely no tax dollars from you or from the general fund of any city or town in the area. Those who use are those who pay. This money is then used to advertise, promote and sell the Peoria area through trade shows, web marketing, print advertising and lots of personal sales calls in our key markets.
Third…how we are doing. Needless to say, it has been a rough road for the hospitality industry over the past couple of years. But the clouds seem to be lifting—at least a bit. In fact, the Peoria area is in the midst of a rainbow. While real spending on travel and tourism increased at an annual rate of 3.9 percent in the first quarter of 2010, spending in the Peoria area increased 5.2 percent over the same period. Peoria ranks tenth among all counties in the state of Illinois in the number of visitors and tourism expenditures.
Hotel occupancy in August was at 65 percent, an eight-percent increase over the same period last year and second in the state behind Chicago. Month over month, in 2010 we have seen a consistent rise in occupancy exceeding the same month in 2009, sometimes by as much as 14 percent. Business travel demand throughout the Peoria area has increased five percent over last year, and we continue to beat the national averages for occupancy, revenue and demand.
The return on the investment in the PACVB continues to improve. In 2008, for every tax dollar we received to market the Peoria area, we returned $10.41 back to the local economy. Last year, that number dropped to $6.65, but thus far in 2010, we have returned $11.45 to the area for every tax dollar received. The average spent by visitors in the Peoria area is $145 per day, and in 2008, that outlay by our visiting friends pumped $291 million into Peoria’s coffers and $601 million throughout the eight-county area. Cha-ching!
While the sun shineth over the Peoria-area visitor industry, we are not without our challenges, and we hope that each of you will continue to support the growth of our welcome mat. Bring a meeting to Peoria, bring friends and family to visit with you and put them in one of our 4,000 hotel rooms. But even more importantly, if you operate a business which serves visitors and tourists, please make an extra effort to make them feel welcome and special. This is your house, and we need your help to make those visitors keep on coming! iBi