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A Publication of WTVP

2007 was a tremendous year for tourism in the Peoria area. Development happened at such a frenetic pace it was hard to keep up. Construction finished on the Peoria Civic Center’s $55 million expansion. Carver Arena now has skyboxes, the exhibit hall space nearly doubled and the carpeted 27,000-square-foot ballroom is a jaw-dropper. East Peoria opened its long-awaited conference center in December—another beautiful facility with 20,000 feet of meeting space. Construction on the attached Embassy Suites hotel was finished, and plans were announced for two more hotels downtown.

On Peoria’s northwest side, the Candlewood Inn and Suites opened near The Shoppes at Grand Prairie, while construction on two other hotels (Wingate and Country Inn and Suites) continued in earnest. AmericInn began an expansion to add more suites. The Hotel Pere Marquette, Mark Twain and Holiday Inn City Centre underwent multi-million-dollar renovations to upgrade both their exteriors and interiors. Others began extensive remodeling projects as well. Restaurants too numerous to mention opened for business.

The City of Peoria shattered records for hotel, restaurant and amusement (HRA) tax receipts—all three set new record highs. Combined HRA collections exceeded 2006 figures by $738,000, a nearly 10 percent jump, cracking $8 million for the first time. Also for the first time, hotel taxes exceeded the $2 million mark and restaurant tax revenues surpassed $5 million. East Peoria also saw a 10 percent jump in hotel tax money.

The Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau got in on the act, too. Thanks to the healthy Peoria hotel tax (of which the PACVB gets a percentage), an increase in state funding and other efficiencies, the PACVB budget ended 2007 well into the black.

2008 Outlook

That money will be put to good use. The PACVB is committing an unprecedented amount of funding and resources to convention and sports marketing in 2008. We will attend 20 convention trade shows, our primary source of business leads. By comparison, in 2007 we attended just eight. We have set aside $50,000 in reserve to bring people to town who have never been here before. Seeing is believing, and when we bring skeptical decision-makers here, the Peoria area sells itself. We are committing more funds than ever before to advertising, especially print ads in major publications, and we will launch a new, state-of-the-art website.

But we can’t do it alone. In 2008, we look to the various municipalities in the Peoria area to continue to work together as one community to address the real needs of the region. We look to you for help as well. When you attend an out-of-town meeting, ask yourself, “Why can’t we hold this in the Peoria area?” Then call us when you get back home, and we’ll take it from there.

In short, we look forward to a great 2008. We hope it will be the year future generations will regard as a watershed in the history of tourism in the Peoria area. IBI

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