In the wake of four-dollar-a-gallon gas prices, a national housing slump, credit crises and uncertainty in the jobs and stock markets, the Peoria area is once again an economic beacon in the storm. Our local economy is surviving some tough times, thanks in part to its investment in tourism. Recently, officials from the Illinois Bureau of Tourism (IBOT) became tourists themselves, criss-crossing the state to share some positive economic results at stops in several cities, including their favorite—Peoria. According to 2007 figures from IBOT, domestic and international travel expenditures increased to nearly $30 billion, while state and local taxes amounted to $2.1 billion, both record highs. Four thousand new travel industry jobs were created. Illinois hosted 89 million domestic visitors, while Chicago set records for national and international tourists. Illinois is the sixth most popular state to visit in the country, up from seventh last year.
Why do we care about Chicago and statewide numbers? Because each foreign traveler will spend $4,000 in the city (s)he visits. Because the more people who come to Illinois and spend money in hotels, restaurants, attractions, shops and gas stations, the more money IBOT gets in tax receipts. The more money IBOT gets, the more grant money that’s available to cities around the state.
2008 might be a bit more challenging. Gas prices and the uncertain state of the economy might force companies to cut back on corporate travel—our bread and butter in the immediate Peoria area. Leisure travel appears to be slowing for the same reasons, which will impact our more rural counties. That’s a shame, because there is more evidence today that people cannot afford not to take a vacation. The following was taken from an article in The New York Times:
- The Framingham Heart Study, which was started in 1948, shows women who took vacations once every six years were eight times more likely to have a heart attack than women who took at least two vacations a year.
- Another study that looked at men showed those who failed to take an annual vacation had a 21 percent higher risk for any kind of death and a 32 percent greater chance of a coronary. You sleep better after a vacation, too, up to an hour more of quality snoozing. And your reaction times improve dramatically.
And you don’t have to travel far to experience something new and wonderful. Last month the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau held its second annual “Amazing Race.” Four teams of two received clues to different destinations within the eight counties the PACVB represents and raced each other to the various destinations. At each stop the teams had to perform tasks before being given their next clues. The result by all who participated was a greater awareness of attractions in our area that they either took for granted or didn’t know existed. And these were local folks who took part. So once again, we invite you to become a tourist in your own backyard and (re)discover what outside visitors already know: there is a lot to explore and enjoy in the Peoria area. IBI