EDITOR’S NOTE: This column, provided by the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, discusses tourism events on the horizon.
Anyone who has lived in this area for a year or more understands the importance of our autumn season to our tourism success. What started out years ago as a simple road opening alongside the river has turned into a year-round driver of economics for our region. The month of October is one of our largest months of tourism throughout the entire year. Mother Nature’s fall glory, combined with countless fall festivals, apples, pumpkins and our growing list of amenities, continue to steer us more and more into tourism as the No. 1 industry for this region. July just barely edges out October as our best month across the board, and that’s pretty amazing considering how busy people are in the fall months with so many other things going on. You will not want to miss all of the fall fun, such as the once-in-a-lifetime Lincoln Funeral Commemoration Oct. 17 at Alton’s Lincoln-Douglas Square. That and much, much more can be found at your fingertips at www.VisitAlton.com.
One fall that is not so good is the looming loss of market share for our state and our region if the budget impasse continues. There are clear studies the correlate tourism marketing and increased market share from states like Colorado, Michigan and cities like Philadelphia and even regional destinations. The state of Illinois has talked about how for every dollar spent on advertising, at least $7 comes back in tourism revenues for our state, regions and municipalities. Across the state, there are examples of how the delays of a state budget are crippling CVBS and our tourism industry, doing much more harm than good.
Locally, we’ve really had to tighten our belts on ad spending, publications and more. This summer, we already had to pass up additional exposure for the region on St. Louis media outlets and news programming sponsored segments. We’ve also had to eliminate our Holiday Guide for this year. In addition, we combined our spring and summer guides. Finally, we are reducing page counts on our visitor guide and will struggle to find the distribution funds needed. We will find ways to survive, but without a doubt we will lose market share. We are leaving money on the table that we could use to generate for our communities with a partnership from our state. Thankfully, our local communities like Alton, Godfrey and Grafton continue to support our efforts, along with the private-sector business community and Jersey and Madison counties.
And the sad part is that Illinois has said they want to support tourism promotion. In fact, in a recent talk with Gov. Rauner, he mentioned that he would like to triple our promotion budgets to bring in even more dollars to Illinois. Local legislators say similar things about supporting the tourism budget. Right now, we are simply the victim of the budget impasse. And each day that goes by continues to result in more harm than good for our local communities and entire state. Tourism means jobs and revenue for us all. And now, more than ever, we need it.
So, you might be asking yourself, what can I do? The most important thing you can do is to support our local economy and industry during this trying time. Think about inviting friends in town, hosting a family reunion, choosing us as your wedding site, selecting a local restaurant as your holiday party, or bringing a conference to town. We have a lot of great things going that will build momentum and carry us through this time. Let’s make it as successful as possible and protect the important market share that means so much to us all.
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.