Photo by Fred Pollard
Assistant Director of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Dan Seals speaks during the 10th Annual Tourism Summit by the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau on Jan. 16 as Seymour Bluffs, the bureau's mascot, looks on. Seals says tourism is vital to improving the state of the economy in Illinois.
ALTON − Letting potential visitors know our region is a great place and "it all starts with a visit" is a job the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau takes very seriously.
"It is our job to tell our story in a compelling manner − so that people will stay overnight with us, shop at our shops, dine with us and explore our attractions," President and CEO of the Alton CVB Brett Stawar said.
The bureau has adopted a new theme for 2014, "The Moment is Now," and during the 10th annual Tourism Summit at Lewis and Clark Community College on Jan. 16, it addressed the ups and downs of 2013 and how the organization plans to move forward.
"We saw two major floods this past year, so there have been challenges, but we have seen growth in the tourism market," Stawar said during the summit. "We are also looking closely at social media and how people are using it as a tool when they plan their vacation."
The Alton CVB, one of 40 Illinois state-certified CVBs, has won 16 Marketing Excellence Awards in categories such as Best Visitor Guide, Best Website and Best DVD since 2004, when Stawar was named as president.
"Tourism brings jobs and economic opportunity to this community," he said. "We turn these people into residents and businesses. One by one, it adds up."
In 2013, the area saw $425,650,000 in visitor expenditures (up more than 3 percent from 2012), boosting local employment. According to the CVB, 80 percent of travelers use the Internet, 49 percent use feedback from friends and family, 28 percent use brochures, and 18 percent are influenced by what they see on television when making their travel plans.
"These things all tie into what we are doing," Stawar said. "72 percent of travelers use social media while on their trip. We are working to increase our online presence."
Dan Seals, assistant director of Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, says with Illinois being the fifth-largest economy in the country, the area is prime for growth despite job numbers that are not in line with the rest of the country.
"Companies want to come where people are," Seals said.
Attracting and growing the business market is crucial to improving the economic situation, he says, along with fixing pensions, investing in infrastructure and reducing the cost of business. Tourism goes hand-in-hand with that growth.
"Tourism is a $33 billion industry, bringing in billions in revenue to the state, and employs almost 300,000 people across our state," Seals said. "Those are incredible stats."
In December, Argosy Casino donated two buses retired from its fleet to the CVB, and Stawar says they currently are being "wrapped" with tourism graphics by Guardian Graphics of South Roxana.
Other exciting developments for the Alton CVB in the coming year include working more closely than ever with small businesses with promotion, a new "haunted app" for smartphones ("It's a niche market, but it brings people from all over the Midwest," Stawar says), and the launch of a new website.
"It takes all of us to move our destination forward and be all that we can be," Alton CVB chairman Ann Badasch said.
Badasch may have been referring specifically to the bureau, but the statement can easily reach out to the entire community.
For more information about the CVB, visit the website at www.visitalton.com.
Visitors bureau gets top honors in competition
ALTON – It wasn’t a dog show or a comedy film, but the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau has plenty to wag its tail over these days.
During the annual Illinois Governor’s Conference earlier this month, the CVB received top honors in the competition for Best Media/PR Initiative, Best Website and Best in Show.
The Best in Show award was for the CVB’s All Access Media Pass. The press kit won out over 95 other entries.
The organization’s website, www.VisitAlton.com, was honored as being the best in the state for the second time. The website recently has seen a 90 percent increase in unique visitors.
With these three latest awards, the CVB has earned 18 Illinois Governor’s Conference for Excellence awards, including a second win for Best Marketing/PR Initiative.
2014 Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau award recipients:
- Best Community Involvement − Alton Steel
- Best Group Tour Product − Hakuna Matata
- Best Festival and Event − St. Louis Regional Airport Fly-In
- Best Attraction − Captain Andy's Parasail
- Best Partner − Mississippi Half Step Restaurant
- Best Volunteer − Madalynn McKenzie