The Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau’s 11th Annual Tourism Summit was held at Lewis and Clark Community College last week, providing an opportunity to share the region’s accomplishments for 2014.
Alton Regional CVB President and CEO Brett Stawar says in the past year, the bureau reached more than 41 million potential travelers through outreach, media, advertising and more.
“Our digital and online presence touched on many new strategies … that had visitors staying on our website for more than seven minutes at a time; that is a tremendous accomplishment in the digital world today,” he said.
The bureau distributed more than 150,000 seasonal guides this year alone and saw more than 15,000 visitors come through the doors of the visitor’s center. It began selling tickets to concerts at Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater through a partnership with Metrotix, saw its number of Facebook fans top 20,000, and hosted 14 journalists and met with 37 travel writers at conferences.
At the 2014 Governor’s Conference on Tourism, the CVB also took home Best of Show and Best Media/PR Initiative awards.
Also in 2014, the area saw 35,000 eagle watchers, and there were 177,170 overnight guests, an increase for the 11th straight year.
“That is over 500 people each and every day of the year, spending the night with us in our communities,” Stawar said.
Those guests had an estimated economic impact of over $23 million.
“That is a record, and the bar has been set for 2015,” Stawar said.
Stawar said the bureau will continue to expand and explore new ways to reach out not only to potential visitors, but the community and local businesses as well regarding the continual growth of tourism. He also touted the new interactive live chat where online guests can ask questions and receive quick responses from bureau representatives.
The bureau’s new promotional video, created by Ryan Hanlon of Route 3 Films, premiered during the summit.
Beyond just the accomplishments of the Alton Regional CVB, the event was a chance for the organization to recognize the accomplishments of those in the community who help support the region and encourage tourism.
Best Community Involvement award went to Liberty Bank, Best Group Tour Project went to Phillips 66 Wood River Refinery, Attractions of the Year were Lewis and Clark Community College’s Rocky Fork Church Exhibit and Bee-Dazzled Garden Exhibit, Best Festival award went to the annual Grafton Rendezvous, and the Tourism Innovation award went to 3 Charming Chicks. The Partners of the Year award was given to Green Tree Inn owners Gary and Connie Davis.
Each year, the bureau recognizes a Volunteer of the Year. For 2014, it was Becky Bierbaum, who has volunteered for the last four years.
Castelli’s Restaurant at 255 and Fast Eddie’s Bon Air were recognized as “Delicious Destinations” by the Illinois Office of Tourism, which operates the www.enjoyillinois.com website. Stawar also recognized the owners of the Beall Mansion, Jim and Sandy Belote, for winning the 2014 Illinois Office of Tourism Lincoln Award gold medal for “service above self.”
As always, the summit was an opportunity for the bureau to stress the fact that tourism accomplishments are achieved by the entire community.
“We in this room are the human definition of tourism,” Alton Regional CVB chairperson Ann Badasch said. “We are the aromas, the smiles, the fluffed downy comforters of a bed and breakfast, the perfect antique to take home to our collections, and the squeals of delight as we zip over the canopy of the Great River Road. We are tourism.”
For more on the Alton Regional CVB, visit www.visitalton.com.