EDITOR’S NOTE: This column, provided by the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, discusses tourism events on the horizon.
All of the growth we experienced in January quickly was smashed by the brutal winter weather this past month. Hotels experienced many cancellations and visitors were much less likely to come to the Meeting of the Great Rivers in February. One good note; it has made for some stellar winter scenery and an extended eagle-watching season. But enough is enough and it looks like we are turning the corner toward spring. With just a couple of weeks left until the official start of the spring season, we finally can see light at the end of this wintery tunnel.
Thankfully, we had some groups in this past month to help our hotels survive this month, including some of the college hockey teams that were in town thanks to the East Alton Ice Arena. As we look ahead to the thaw, we have a great season on tap. But if you still want to see eagles, this weekend offers the last glimpse of programming at the Lewis and Clark Confluence Tower with a live eagle meet-and-greet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the open house at Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge.
But it is not all optimistic news for tourism, as we heard from the state of Illinois and the proposed budget of the governor. While tourism was not alone in the cuts among state departments, the cuts to tourism could be devastating to your CVB and many others. It is unclear exactly how the program will move forward or how some of the grant programs might be reshaped, but understand that the threat is real. We all know tourism is a revenue generator. Each dollar we spend on tourism development and promotion comes back to support our communities and our quality of life. We look forward to working with the governor and his administration over the next few weeks to shape the budget for tourism as best as possible during these trying times for Illinois. Together, we will work toward creating a stronger tomorrow for Illinois. Tourism is part of the solution.
As we mentioned earlier, it is not too early to think spring. Think about how you might grab some family and friends and dive into our great flavors of the region and natural spots like the Olin Nature Preserve at the Nature Institute, the Audubon Center at Riverlands, Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge and Pere Marquette State Park. Take some time to plan your adventures at www.VisitAlton.com.
Stawar is president and CEO of the CVB, which works for the vested interests of hospitality partners in northwestern Madison County and all of Jersey and Calhoun counties.