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A Publication of WTVP

The Peoria-area hotel market is growing, and so is the debate on whether this area can support more hotels. Since last fall, construction has begun on two properties at the Shoppes at Grand Prairie (while plans for up to three more are in the works). One is being built in Washington at the corner of U.S. Route 24 and Cummings Lane; two others are planning to come to East Peoria, joining Embassy Suites, which is scheduled to open in November (while plans for two proposed Hilton Garden Inns on Peoria Civic Center property were scrapped). If all goes as planned, within three years the Peoria area will experience a growth of just over one thousand hotel rooms, a 33 percent increase in total room inventory. What’s fueling the demand, and more importantly, can we sustain it?

The Peoria Civic Center just expanded its exhibition hall space by 71 percent. If you count the beautiful ballroom upstairs, the meeting space increased by more than 100 percent. Therefore, logic would dictate we need more hotel rooms as we try to attract larger conventions to the area, bringing hundreds of more people to Peoria. That’s fine logic, but it’s only part of the picture.

Corporate clients are the bread and butter of any hotel in this area. Conventions are a key part of the business plan, but not the deciding factor which financially makes or breaks a hotel. Any time Caterpillar, RLI or any other local company brings people to Peoria, they stay in hotels. When the Peoria Journal Star purchased new printing presses, the German engineers who installed them stayed at a hotel in downtown Peoria for nine months. And there are simply many more business travelers than conventioneers who come to this area and stay overnight. Thus, it would appear that there is an upswing of business travelers coming to Peoria. But is this apparent surge of corporate visitors enough?

Multi-million-dollar businesses like hotel chains don’t just decide to build somewhere on a whim. They do extensive research on the market to identify what they need to build, or buy, to be profitable. One could argue the fact that many developers interested in this region speaks well to its economic success. In other words, it appears there are enough business travelers to sustain all of our hotels. But existing hoteliers would argue that too much of the equation involves shift. For instance, how many of the “new” customers at new hotels are actually customers who stayed at previously existing hotels in the past and are deciding to stay at a different hotel?

In short, I don’t have definitive answers to the questions posed above. And there are certainly other factors: room quality, price, location, availability, etc. What I hope for is healthy competition which provokes a “survival of the fittest” corporate environment, prompting existing properties to reinvest, new properties to provide something Peoria doesn’t already have and economies of scale to help lure more convention business to town. IBI

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