Visit Quad Cities geared up to grow tourism in region

Dave Herrell, President and CEO of Visit Quad Cities.
Dave Herrell, president and CEO of Visit Quad Cities. CREDIT VISIT QUAD CITIES

It’s National Travel and Tourism Week and Visit Quad Cities is using it to renew its commitment to focusing “on economic recovery and future positioning while sharing the remarkable story of the Quad Cities.”

Tourism week is held each year during the first full week in May to shine a spotlight on the role the U.S. travel industry plays in supporting local economies. That includes Visit Quad Cities, the region’s official destination management and marketing organization (DMMO), and its successful initiatives including the region’s new “QC, That’s Where” campaign.

“Tourism continues to move our regional destination forward in so many ways and supports local jobs,” said Dave Herrell, president and CEO, Visit Quad Cities. “Its positive impact on our economic prosperity, community programming, and brand positioning is vital to the future of the Quad Cities. Tourism and the non-resident revenues including the significant tax revenue it creates for the public sector directly benefits quality of life and quality of place for our residents.“

This year’s celebration has special significance, said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said in a news release. He called it an opportunity “to recognize the collective strength of the U.S. travel industry and how we are rebuilding to be more dynamic, innovative, sustainable, and inclusive in the months and years to come.” 

Thanks to the pandemic, the past two years have been “the hardest the travel industry has ever faced,” the association’s website said. The period was marred by lengthy closures, record job losses, difficulty hiring, uncertainty and anxiety, leaders say. All told, COVID-19 made a significant dent in the pocketbooks of the industry and the communities which tourism helps support.

Consider that, prior to the pandemic, travel and tourism generated $2.6 trillion in economic impact, the U.S. Travel Association said. In 2021, spending remained at only 78% of those 2019 totals. That’s a loss of $755 billion over two years, the national association’s website reports. In addition, it said, “The leisure & hospitality industry accounted for 11% of pre-pandemic U.S. employment but represented a staggering 93% of all jobs still lost in February 2022.” 

That included jobs here in the Quad Cities where tourism visitors and non-resident revenues generate significant economic benefits to households, businesses, and the public sector through overnight stays, day trippers, meetings, conventions, sporting events, and group tours, Visit Quad Cities said. For example, in 2020, visitor spending in the Quad Cities generated $958.76 million, according to the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics. Those numbers were higher than in 2019, but still well below pre-pandemic numbers.

Now industry leaders are “setting our eyes on the future — the #FutureOfTravel,” the association’s national campaign says.

Closer to home, Visit Quad Cities is already working to make that happen including through technology and data collection. For example, it is partnering with Datafy to use geofencing to track overnight visitors and day trippers to gather data on visitors 16 or older.

“Using Datafy, Visit Quad Cities tracked 2.6 million plus unique visitors that made 13.6 million plus trips to the Quad Cities and spent 45 million plus visitor days for an average trip length of 3.3 days,” the agency said. “This data was recorded from February 2018 through present day for visitors coming into the Quad Cities from a 50 mile plus radius.” 

Among the things it showed is that most Quad Cities visitors came from Chicago, Cedar Rapids, Omaha, Dubuque, Des Moines, and Minneapolis. 

Visit Quad Cities also is working with Bandwango, the Destination Experience Technologies platform designed to deliver access to places and experiences digitally. Promotions already launched include the QC Coffee Trail, QC Family Pass, and QC Advanced Pro. “In addition to the QC Ale Trail, these tourism products showcase our authentic and locally curated experiences,” the bureau said.

Also this week, Visit announced the relaunch of its podcast under the region’s new QC, That’s Where brand. The former QC Current was created in 2020 and focuses on stories of the QC Riverfront destination. 

“Visit Quad Cities will continue to build visibility and tell the incredibly rich story of our regional destination,” Mr. Herrell said. “Compelling content drives everything and this is a chance for us to uncork the QC as a critically important storyteller for our community. We can also use this podcast as a vehicle and platform to further connect visitors and Quad Citizens with our brand narrative.”

The lineup of “QC, That’s Where” guests includes:

  • Donna Young – Isabel Bloom
  • Dr. Kit Ford – Argrow’s House
  • DJ K Yung (Rachel Hagen)
  • Chad Pregracke – Living Lands & Waters

Visit Quad Cities also reports that it is moving forward with its Certified Tourism Ambassador (CTA) program. A field test using the new Quad Cities-specific CTA curriculum was conducted Tuesday, May 3, with the local community leaders who participated in the first step last fall.

Administered at the local level, CTA is the only program to give an official designation to front-line employees, business owners, executives, government officials, and volunteers. It’s also an integral part of the Destination Vision and Strategic Plan and the broader strategy to create a standard of excellence with service delivery in the region.  

The bureau also had some good news to report regarding two major components of Quad Cities tourism markets. Visit Quad Cities reports an increase in requests for proposals from meeting planners this year, which the bureau said bring a positive outlook for the return of meetings, conferences, and conventions..  

“This uptick similarly compares with the data U.S. Travel Association and Destination International is sharing regarding the meetings industry recovery,” the QC organization said this week.

That’s important because the hundreds of meetings, conferences, trade shows, military and family reunions, festivals, sports, and special events the QC hosts generate non-resident tourism revenue and they help to employ 8,000 local residents in the tourism and hospitality industry. 

In addition, Visit Quad Cities reports, “Sports tourism continues to generate a strong economic impact leading to bookings in the pandemic recovery phase, and growth is projected in this market for some time to come.”

The river cruise industry also is set to help the Quad Cities focus on “the world-renowned Mississippi River, our global asset.” That includes 54 stops from national cruise line companies this year, through American Queen Voyages and American Cruise Lines as well as the addition of Viking Cruise Lines, which is embarking on the Mississippi for the first time this year.

Get the free QCBJ email newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the people, companies and issues that impact business in the  Quad Cities area.