April 24, 2013 – Joe Taylor, Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau (QCCVB) President/CEO, reported on tourism in the Quad Cities. He noted that in 2011, tourists to the area spent $750 million on goods and services and generated $11 million in direct tax revenue. The local tourism industry employed over 8,300 employees who earned $132 million in wages.
The Quad Cities Area is a "drive destination," meaning that it offers visitors a close-to-home location for a great value. As a result, hotel occupancy rose by 10% in 2012. With gas prices declining, the QCA should attract even more visitors.
Some of the upcoming 2013 events to draw tourists include the Great Race and One State Together in the Arts in June, Heartland Jam Country Music Festival and Explore Illinois by Train Day in July, International Softball Congress World Tournament in August, and East West Riverfest in September.
QCCVB is also working on trail development to attract cyclists and pedestrians to the area. There is a QCCVB board of directors meeting to discuss trail development related to the American Discovery Trail and a conference set for November 1-3.
QCCVB is modernizing agency-wide by updating branding and marketing and updating visitor services like adding kiosks at the airport and new rail station. A meeting to reveal the results of a public input campaign will be held May 9 at 3 p.m. at the Rock Island Holiday Inn.
Cathy Foes, Henry County Tourism Bureau Director said that the bureau has been making great strides at marketing and getting information out about Henry County. She recently moved into a new office at the upgraded Kewanee Amtrak Station. The bureau has also created a new, full-color brochure highlighting activities within the county.
Tourism is growing nationally, and Illinois is ranked fourth in the nation. In Henry County, the tourism industry was ranked fourth with 1,243 jobs, marking a 2.74% growth rate from 2001 to 2010. The industry is predicted to grow another 10% in the next five years.
From 2010 to 2011, travel expenditures increased by 9.9%, payroll increased by 5.5%, employment increased by 2.3%, state tax receipts increased by 5.7%, and local receipts increased by 6.6%. A new study funded by the Rural Jobs Accelerator Grant will report on tourism assessment, marketing assessment, and leadership and tourism analysis. Results of the survey will be released June 12 and 13, and so far 60% of the surveys have been returned.
Finally, the bureau is studying whether the Hennepin Canal waterway can be rehabilitated to accommodate boat trips. The Hennepin Canal State Park shows an annual growth rate of 2% at a time when overall Illinois state park trips are down 1.25%. If updates are made to the canal by 2018, $31.8 million in revenues would be generated in the first year of operation, and 958 full time tourism-related jobs would be created.
Janet Morrow from Muscatine County Convention and Visitors Bureau (MCCVB) reported that Muscatine County is seeing the same increases and benefits as the other two bureaus. Visitors to the county spent $76.9 million, 15.45% more than in 2010. In 2011,the county ranked 17th in tourism of all the Iowa counties, up from 18th in 2010. Local tax receipts increased by 15.48% from 2010 at $890,000
MCCVB is also increasing marketing efforts through a new website to be launched in June, visitors guides, and the use of social media. Upcoming events in Muscatine County include the Iowa State USBC WBA Bowling Tournament, soccer, That Was Then, This is Now Boat Show, and a Preservation Hall Jazz Band concert.
The three tourism representatives invited Commissioners to visit attractions within their area and enjoy local venues.