If there is one radio station that is a pre-set on our mental music dial, a station that is number one in our emotional hit parade and has the widest demographic appeal, this is it: WII-FM—“What’s In It For Me?” This is where we set our personal tuners and the one channel that every business should have “playing” in the consumer’s mind.

And the tourism/visitor industry is no exception, with understandable expectations from local residents and stakeholders. As a resident, retiree or business owner in the Peoria area, you may ask yourself: Why should I care if a tourist comes to visit, if a convention brings hundreds of delegates to our city and region, or if a motorcoach stops in Peoria for the day? If you appreciate the quality of life the Peoria area provides you and your family, you should care—plenty. If you happen to like saving money on your taxes and appreciate the added tax revenues pumped into your community (such as the $291 million to Peoria County in 2008 and $169 million into Tazewell’s ‘08 coffers) then thank the visitors. Plus, many of the venues, events and activities you enjoy are funded by…you guessed it…tourism.

Turn up the volume a bit on that ubiquitous station and listen in while I share just what tourists do for YOU every year:

  1. The one million-plus visitors to the Peoria area save you and every other local tax-paying citizen $950 annually in additional taxes. Taxes that visitors pay means taxes locals don’t have to pay.
  2. Tourism is very often the primary funding source for local events, venue development and attractions that you get to enjoy year-round (i.e. Peoria Civic Center, Eastside Centre and many more).
  3. Tourism puts over 6,000 local people to work every day serving the Peoria-area visitor with an annual payroll of $110 million, money these workers use to pay additional taxes and for induced spending to buy goods and services from your business.
  4. Tourism is much bigger than an overnight hotel stay, a juicy steak or riverboat cruise. Tourists involve themselves in the fabric of our city through shopping (their preferred activity worldwide), gas purchases, drug store needs, dry cleaners, farm purchases, car rentals and parking fees. In short, they spend big bucks in our area over the two and a half days they visit with us—to the tune of $136 per person per day. Cha Ching!
  5. For every 189 visitors who wipe their feet on our welcome mat, one mid-level job is created. One million-plus visitors came calling in 2009…do the math.

It should be apparent that the visitor/tourist market is a lucrative one for the Peoria region, one that should not be ignored. There is no quick fix to what the beleaguered economy has brought upon the visitor industry throughout the Peoria area over the past 18 months. But what we do know is that as long as we continue to welcome tourists and visitors to our house and make them feel special while they are here, you and I will continue to enjoy the many comforts and added prosperity they bring to our region. There will be little question as to what the tourism industry does for you. iBi