PACVB Issues

What Does It Take to Compete as a Destination?
Steve Powell, Peoria Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

It’s a good question—and one Peoria must answer as it prepares to move to the next level as a destination within the lucrative hospitality industry. This question can be answered from several different perspectives.

How do we compete as a leisure destination? The answer lies in an assessment of what we have to offer a leisure traveler. If you put on your “tourist” shoes, you quickly realize the competitive answer lies with the uniqueness of our attractions, shopping, natural assets, the level of our hospitality, and the services we offer the traveling public. Peoria is well positioned for this market as we move toward the new museum square, the promotion of Illinois River Country, and the further development of the riverfront.

How do we compete as a tour group destination? This market has the same needs as those of the leisure traveler market, except it typically involves a group of 25 or more traveling together. So, the question of accommodation for groups of this size within our restaurants, attractions, and hotels is always a concern. Competition for this business lies mostly in preparing exciting activities with a lot of value for their expenditures. Again, the region is, in my mind, well positioned for this market.

How do we compete as a convention/sports destination? This market segment is one of the most lucrative for the Peoria area. Competing for this business is by far one of the most difficult. For the people making the site selection decision, it’s a choice based on price point, services, convenience/access of the convention facility to the hotel spaces being used by the conventioneers, quality of the hotel accommodations, and, of course, quality of the convention center space. Peoria is expanding and upgrading its convention center. The price point for a meeting planner executing an event in the Peoria area is, in most cases, lower than the price point in many other destinations. Peoria’s services and its hospitality levels are some of the best in the country. The issue of a hotel attached to the Civic Center and the quality of our downtown hotel rooms is one that’s currently being addressed. This issue is both difficult and emotional for the existing hotels. However, once we achieve the hotel quality and convenience expected by meeting planners and conventioneers in today’s competitive market and marry that with adequate marketing, we’ll be able to achieve the levels of success that will both support and exceed the projections for the Civic Center expansion.

As in most areas of business, it isn’t good enough to provide the best service or the price point. The consumer has expectations of “best value” and “best convenience” and an expectation of a product that exceeds their expectations. As a destination, the Peoria area can compete only if we exceed the consumer’s expectations at all levels. We must do it better that our competitors. This is the recipe for a successful destination and one that Peoria must embrace. IBI