PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD)–Changing the landscape of tourism in the face of COVID-19 on Monday, members of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau discussed the evolving nature of tourism in the River City.
Members of the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors Bureau say they’ve never seen anything like this pandemic before, but they’re trying to use past events as guidance to move forward.
The president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, Michael Jacobson says Peoria is a ‘drive destination’, meaning the majority of people who do visit get here by car making it likely Peoria will rebound.Whereas cities like Chicago that rely on more international visitors might take longer to rebound tourism-wise.
“I think it’s going to take longer for travelers to convince themselves that it’s safe to get on an airplane for four or six hours.But if it’s a 30 minute drive and they can go with their family that they’ve been isolating with in the last several weeks, that’s what’s going to see a rebound quicker,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson also says we could see a big technological shift with hotels using things such as virtual check-ins much like airports. Hotels may have to change certain methods they use to ensure cleanliness.
” I think there will be a lot of reliance on technology. Things like electrostatic sprayers that are commonly used in hospital cleanings, are now going be carried over into hotel lobbies and hotel guest rooms.UV lighting units that can be rolled in an kill any known pathogen in a guest room,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson says when Illinois’ stay-at-home order is lifted, hotels have to assure the customers they are taking precautions to ensure their safety.
“We need to make sure travelers feel safe. Because even when the order is lifted in Illinois, people are not going to begin traveling again overnight,” Jacobson said.
The call also addressed crowd sizes pertaining to conventions, meetings and sporting events and what those may look like in the “new normal”. Connect Events is gathering information on what that may look like in the short-term.
“We’re being very data driven. We’re using a lot of data and insights we’re able to collect to help drive what we’re doing,” said Patrick Higgins, vice president of Connect Events.
Higgins also says there is no clear answer as to what future crowd sizes may look like as the information changes everyday.
“I think from a planning perspective, they’re really waiting for things to open up in terms of what the hospitality product looks like,” Higgins said.
Higgins also says many events may use technology to avoid things such as crowds of people standing in a line.
“I think technology will not only be used to help keep us healthy, but also keep things moving quicker because standing in a line could be seen as a health risk, standing near a bunch of people,” Higgins said.
Both Jacobson and Higgins see a light at the end of tunnel for Peoria’s event and tourism industry in quarter four of 2020 and into 2021.