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Tourism & Marketing in the Tri States

Rich Egger
The Al Sears Jazz Festival is one of the attractions promoted by the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau

Macomb aldermen are contemplating whether to end the city's relationship with the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and instead have the duties handled by City Hall.  It's an issue worth watching because of the economic impact of tourism.

Figures from the states of Illinois and Iowa underscore that impact in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available.

Domestic travel impact (visitors spent this much):

  • Hancock County, Illinois – $25.82 Million
  • McDonough County, Illinois - $35.32 Million  
  • Warren County, Illinois - $21.66 Million
  • Knox County, Illinois – $68.96 million
  • Lee County, Iowa - $58.40 million
  • Des Moines County, Iowa - $125 million

Local tax revenue generated:

  • Hancock County, Illinois - $920,000
  • McDonough County, Illinois - $830,000
  • Warren County, Illinois - $900,000
  • Knox County, Illinois - $1,540,000
  • Lee County, Iowa - $800,000
  • Des Moines County, Iowa - $1,710,000

Who’s in Charge of Tourism and Creating Attractions?

Macomb is considering a change, in part, because of a perceived lack of new promotional ideas from the CVB.  “I just think that there’s been for many years a dearth of ideas and aggressiveness (from the CVB),” City Administrator Dean Torreson told Tri States Public Radio this month.  Torreson is looking for something that would “physically enhance Macomb as a tourist destination,” though he’s not sure what that might be.

Tri States Public Radio found communities in the region do not subscribe to any single way of creating attractions and drawing visitors.  In many cases, it’s a team effort.

Credit Rich Egger
Paul Schuytema, Director of Community Development for Monmouth, said communities work to promote themselves as “…places that people make the special trip for and come to over the weekend.”

For example, the Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce partners with the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote events such as the Warren County Prime Beef Festival.  But ideas can come from just about anyone. 

Paul Schuytema, Director of Community Development for Monmouth, said that during the groundbreaking for the Cloverleaf Cold Storage facility someone suggested the community hold a bacon festival.  The suggestion was proposed to an ad-hoc group, the Monmouth Business Council, and that group decided to organize the event, which will be held in August with funding support from Smithfield Foods and Cloverleaf.

“We were sort of pitched the idea and we were like, ‘Heck yeah, that sounds like a cool thing to do,’” said Schuytema, who’s part of the business council.

Other communities have a CVB or other tourism-related office.  Those offices generally are not expected to create attractions.

Nauvoo Tourism Office Director Kim Orth said she mostly markets events that already exist and promotes Nauvoo as a destination.

“Our budget is still fairly limited. I would say we spend less than $10,000. We partner with just about every entity that we can,” said Orth.  She said the office’s overall budget is around $56,000.

Rich Egger
The rebuilt LDS temple is one of the historic attractions in Nauvoo.

She said entities she partners with include the Chamber of Commerce, the Joseph Smith Historic Site, and the Nauvoo Historical Society

“It’s a small enough community (population 1,100) that we all are working on the same projects.  Just making sure making sure that communication is there has made the relationship with the city work out as well as it is,” Orth said.

Attractions in Nauvoo include numerous restored sites related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the oldest winery in Illinois, and a state park.

Orth said her office, which was founded in 1954, is considered part of city government.  She estimated 200,000-to-250,000 visitors come to Nauvoo every year.

Credit Rich Egger
Burlington hosts several events every year on and around Snake Alley, including the criterium on Memorial Day weekend.

Des Moines County has the Greater Burlington Convention and Visitors Bureau.  It’s a non-profit, private organization that operates outside city government.

Executive Director Chelsea Tolle said the CVB promotes the county.  She does not create events.  

“I am basically just a marketer for the community,” Tolle said.  “Our focus is outside of a 90 miles radius of the community. Our two major target regions are (the city of) Des Moines and the Quad Cities.”

Tolle said Steamboat Days is the community’s largest event.  The biggest attraction is the Burlington Regional Rec Plex, which Tolle said does more than bring in teams for tournaments.

“A lot of families will extend their trip here by a day or two and they’ll stay at Pzazz and do Huck’s Harbor and FunCity and the casino, that sort of thing,” Tolle said.

Credit Rich Egger
Railroad Days is one of the big draws every year in Galesburg.

Galesburg also has a CVB.  It’s operated through the Galesburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the city provides input through a tourism council.

Carthage has a Community Development Committee that’s engaged in community events in a variety of ways, including advertising/promotion, assisting with event programming, and recruiting volunteers.  The Christmas open house and the Independence Day parade are major attractions, as are recreational opportunities such as parks, lakes, and a disc golf course.

Fort Madison hired Jean Peiton a couple years ago to serve as tourism and marketing coordinator.  She works out of City Hall.  Peiton said she promotes events and attractions.  The entities responsible for creating events include the Chamber of Commerce and Fort Madison Main Street.

She said Fort Madison’s biggest attractions include the Tri-State Rodeo,historic Old Fort Madison, and the Mississippi River.

Hotel-Motel Bed Tax Money

Most of the communities Tri States Public Radio talked to for this story have a hotel-motel tax:

  • Macomb’s tax brings in roughly $241,000.  Under its recently expired contract, the CVB received $184,000.  Much of the rest of the money supported the downtown development office for putting on events such as the Independence Day fireworks display.
  • Peiton said Fort Madison has a tourism commission that oversees the money generated by the hotel-motel tax.  She estimates the figure tops $100,000, and she gets about $15,000 for marketing.  “Once the $15,000 is gone, then I present them with other ideas and they do extend funds that exceed that $15,000.”
  • Tolle said the said the tax brings in around $800,000 per year.  She said the Greater Burlington CVB is getting $280,000, with the rest of the money going to the communities of Burlington and West Burlington.
  • Galesburg City Manager Todd Thompson said his community’s CVB is largely funded through the hotel-motel tax.  He believes the tax generated $275,000 in the last budget year, with $180,000 going to the CVB. 
  • Schuytema said Monmouth’s tax generates about $80,000 per year.  He said the money goes into general economic development for the city.

One community that does not have a hotel-motel tax is Carthage.  Amy Graham, Director of the Community Development Committee, said a bed tax would not be feasible for the city.
“We do have a bed and breakfast in town, but the only hotel we have sits outside city limits on the west side of Carthage,” she said.

She said the committee is funded through a local sales tax that brings in about $45,000. The city signs off on the committee’s budget.

Tri States Public Radio’s Jason Parrott and T.J. Carson contributed to this story.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.
Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.