A Publication of WTVP

It’s not exactly the same as in The Lion King, but travel promotion can be the “circle of life” for a community. Wise investments in effective travel and tourism promotion can kickstart a whole chain of events and feed an entire cycle of economic benefits. Travel promotion increases visitor trips, which in turn results in increased visitor spending, which helps create new jobs and increases tax revenues for the community—a win-win situation.

But residents of a community often don’t realize that. Findings by the Focus Forward CI initiative reveal that tourism is not well-recognized as an economic development resource in this area. While many state and local budgets are stretched to the limit, a report by the U.S. Travel Association concludes that communities across the country have discovered that an “investment in travel promotion is an essential strategy for encouraging economic growth, and is one of the only sources of new revenues. As policymakers search for innovative solutions to their budget dilemmas, travel promotion delivers proven results.” The circle is easy to follow:

Tourism funding is a must for communities in the State of Illinois. In 2011, Illinois saw a 10-percent increase in visitors, generating a record $31.8 billion in revenue. Here are a few other interesting numbers:

So what does this mean for us in central Illinois? The good news is that the trend is the same. Each of the eight counties that the PACVB encompasses has seen increases in tourism spending in recent years, from 5.6 percent to 12.1 percent, and that trend is expected to continue in 2013. Here are a few highlights for Peoria County from 2011:

These numbers show how tourism is a cash-generating machine for state and local governments. In today’s highly competitive travel market, destinations that maintain or even increase funding for their travel promotion programs seize market share, while those that cut programs suffer immediate revenue losses. Colorado is a case in point; when the state cut its travel promotion a few years ago, it lost a hefty percentage of its tourism revenue to other states.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, promotion dollars go toward much more than glossy brochures and slick advertising. We agree. The staff at the PACVB researches and executes marketing campaigns; represents the Peoria area at trade shows; engages and interacts with key media and journalists; meets with travel buyers and meeting planners to encourage them to bring their meetings, conventions and events to this area; and maintains an interactive presence through websites, social media and other means, communicating with stakeholders and members on a daily basis.

Ultimately, the goal is, of course, the “circle of tourism”—to increase visitors and increase visitors’ spending, which in turn supports new jobs and generates additional tax revenue that pays for the initial investment many times over. iBi

Don Welch is president and CEO of the Peoria Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.