A Publication of WTVP

A new term has popped up in our American vernacular, and it’s a direct result of the weak economy. You’ve perhaps heard it in radio commercials or seen it in print advertisements: “staycation.” A “staycation” is a vacation, but you don’t go anywhere—you stay home and enjoy the amenities your own locale has to offer. I am, and always have been, a big advocate of being a tourist in your own backyard. Every chance I get, I espouse all of the wonderful offerings of the Peoria area and challenge local residents to discover—or re-discover—them.

Doing so has several benefits. First and foremost, you have fun! Second, you provide direct benefit to the owners of those amusements, attractions, restaurants, etc. Third, it helps develop your sense of community pride, knowing that we have all of these awesome amenities. But most importantly, it helps make you a Peoria-area tourism expert, which comes in handy when you participate in the greatest marketing strategy of all: word of mouth. There is nothing more powerful than a proud resident who boasts to all who can hear what a fantastic destination the Peoria area is.

However, there is a downside to staycations. If you’re hearing that term, it means hotels and attractions are worried because business is down, and they need to drum it up somehow. If not enough out-of-towners are coming, target the in-town people.

Unfortunately, across the country, staycations are a real phenomenon. In a recent survey conducted by the Travel Industry Association (TIA), respondents who planned a staycation cited high gas prices, the need to cut back on discretionary spending and the cost of travel in general. The fear is that if enough Americans do not leave home and take a traditional vacation, the domestic travel industry will sustain a dramatic hit.

Here’s the good news. Fewer than 10 percent of the survey’s respondents say they plan to take staycations, a much lower figure than industry analysts predicted. And those who do plan staycations report they will stay in hotels, go shopping and visit restaurants and attractions, so the potential negative impact will be far less than expected.

The news is even better in the Peoria area. From all indications, the economy and the weaker travel market have not negatively impacted us here. Hotel occupancies appear to be holding their own. 2006 was a record year for City of Peoria hotel tax collections, and 2007 was 12 percent higher than that. So far in 2008, hotel taxes are only down three percent from that record 2007 pace. In East Peoria, the 226-room Embassy Suites wants to basically add another 110 suites because business is booming. The average daily rate at local hotels is at an all-time high. That’s good, because the more an out-of-town visitor pays for a hotel room, the stronger the impact for the hotel owner and the more local tax money is collected. In short, tourism still plays in Peoria, and this area is once again bucking the national trend. iBi