The year 2006 was a record-setting one for tourism in Illinois, including the Peoria area. So grab your abacus and a scorecard, because I have a lot of numbers to share. Statewide, 91 million domestic visitors accounted for an economic impact of $27 billion dollars, according to the Governor’s office. That was a 6.4 percent increase in the number of visitors over the previous year. The economic impact of tourism increased $2 billion, an 8.3 percent jump. 1,800 new jobs were created because of tourism.
Locally, tourism accounted for a $257 million economic impact in Peoria County and $138 million in Tazewell County. If you add up the numbers for all eight counties represented by the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, tourism had a total economic impact of more than $500 million. That’s half a billion dollars!
Local tax receipts were also up. Peoria County saw a nearly 10 percent jump in the tax money it collected in 2006. Woodford County had a 5 percent increase, while Tazewell County enjoyed a 7 percent bump. That’s new money being pumped into local coffers.
“Tourism is thriving today as people have taken notice of all the diverse attractions we have to offer,” Governor Rod Blagojevich said in a written news release. “Our investments…are being returned many times over with billions of new dollars coming into Illinois.” I couldn’t agree more. Every time visitors stay in the Peoria area, they spend an estimated $150 per day. They sleep, eat, visit an attraction, shop and perhaps fill up with gas. All of those businesses—the hotels, restaurants, amusements, retailers and gas stations—are the direct beneficiaries of new money. Additionally, there are hotel, restaurant, amusement, sales and gas taxes that are collected by the local community. Again, new money.
Who is spending it? It’s people who come to the Peoria Civic Center for a meeting, trade show or convention. It’s sports fans who come to Eastside Centre for a softball tournament. It’s the IHSA fans or groups who come to the Festival of Lights. It’s also the people who just want to enjoy the beauty, unique attractions, nightlife, festivals, culture, history and affordability the Peoria area has to offer.
By far the most common reaction we get from people who visit the Peoria area for the first time, especially those who see the newly expanded Civic Center, is how stunned they are by what Peoria has to offer. Their image of us is a little, blue-collar, farming and industrial community sitting somewhere in a cornfield in Illinois, far south of Chicago (and civilization). They are amazed—every one of them—when we convince them to come here.
This is where you come into the picture. We are working hard to take those record numbers to even greater heights. But we need your help. Therefore, I am renewing a call to action to bring more business to the Peoria area. The next time you go to a meeting, convention or trade show that is being held out of town, look around and ask yourself, “Why couldn’t we have this in the Peoria area?” And then take one extra step: call us. We’ll take it from there. IBI