The tourism industry is back in the Quad Cities.
The annual Destination QC event on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2023 at Waterfront Convention Center, Bettendorf, showcased successes in the past year. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023 (which didn’t include the July 29 BixBRAI festivities), total hotel/motel tax revenue in the area totaled $7.7 million – up from $4.99 million two years ago and $6.3 million in FY 2019.
“Tourism is back to pre-pandemic levels,” said Dave Herrell, president/CEO of Visit Quad Cities. “Today’s event and our upcoming release of detailed visitor economy data underscores how the work of Visit Quad Cities is helping drive our regional economy forward. However, this doesn’t mean that we should be comfortable with this resurgence.
“We should be investing in destination marketing and business development efforts if we are to remain relevant,” he said. “Non-resident revenues and tourism is cash in-hand economic development. Even though we are experiencing some wins, we must be positioned to compete in a highly competitive environment. I am proud of our Board of Directors and professional team for delivering on the promise we have made to our community and the future that lies ahead.”
“Visit Quad Cities’ vision is crystal clear: to become an internationally recognized, must-experience riverfront destination,” Herrell said at the Thursday celebration, which featured the tourism office heads of Illinois and Iowa. “Today’s event demonstrates our commitment to serve the region with purpose, with the expectation we will compete and win. It is imperative to achieve our quality-of-life goals and intentionally design the QC of the future.”
Per the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics, the regional visitor economy in the QC represented $1.14 billion of spending in 2022-23, just shy of 2019’s record year of $1.2 billion. Visitor spending in the QC generates significant economic benefits to local households, businesses, and the public sector from overnight stays, day trippers, meetings, conventions, sporting events, and group tours.
Through the collaborative efforts of Visit Quad Cities, summer of 2023 brought in the region’s biggest hotel occupancy rate (since the pandemic) of 63.8%, valued at $45 million over the three months of June, July and August.
BixBRAI festivities on July 29 were a significant contributor, as Davenport hosted the Bix 7 road race while simultaneously welcoming as many as 30,000 cyclists into downtown for the last stop on the 50th anniversary RAGBRAI route.
Visit QC will reinvest $25,000 from the proceeds of that weekend, including the purchase of new bikes available at visitor centers in Iowa and Illinois.
In addition to hotel occupancy rates, Visit Quad Cities now tracks overnight visitation and day-trippers coming into the region through Datafy. Using mobile devices and geofencing, Datafy can track time spent in the area, their interests, and what cities and states make up the percentage of our travelers. Visit QC is also using these valuable insights and data to drive advertising decisions, according to a Friday press release.
Visit Quad Cities tracked 3 million unique visitors from a 50+ mile radius, who made 6.1 million trips to the QC from July 1, 2022, to June 30, 2023. These visitors spent 14.5 million visitor days for an average trip length of 2.4 days.
The top cities for visitation were Chicago, Cedar Rapids-Waterloo-Iowa City and Dubuque, Des Moines, and Peoria-Bloomington. Outside Illinois and Iowa, the leading source states were Wisconsin, Indiana, Nebraska, Missouri, and Michigan.
“As individuals and as a collective, we are wholeheartedly dedicated to propelling our region forward, where the quality of life harmoniously intertwines with the quality of experience,” said Corri Spiegel, 2023 Visit QC board chair. “Our commitment extends to curating remarkable encounters for both our region’s visitors and the cherished residents who call the QC home.”
VQC secures convention planned for 2026
Visit QC continues to sell and market the regional destination to drive value and quality of place. These efforts secured the commitment from Central States Shrine Association to host their 2026 convention in the QC.
They will host a business meeting in the QC in March 2026 with the annual convention taking place Aug. 19-24, 2026. With 3,000 expected attendees, this event marks the first city-wide convention booked in a decade, requiring 5,000 hotel room nights.
Hosting meetings, conferences, trade shows, group tours, military and family reunions, festivals, and sports events of all sizes generate a positive economic impact through non-resident revenues. In FY23, Visit Quad Cities generated $30 million in direct economic impact by securing group business.
In addition, Visit QC was honored by Sports ETA as Event Partnership of the Year for communities with population under 500,000. Visit QC was one of 10 awardees honored among the 600 Sports ETA member organizations for the Professional Disc Golf Association’s Tim Selinske U.S. Masters Championship event held in September 2022.
The award selection committee noted the Visit Quad Cities partnership with a local disc golf supply business on logistics and event experiences, including food truck offerings that catered to multiple dietary restrictions, American Sign Language interpreters, and partnerships with the local parks department and waste commission to provide adequate water and recycling needs for participants.
Speaking of golf, Herrell touted the world-class PGA Tour event John Deere Classic, every summer, which drives major tourism and brand awareness for the QC. He especially praised that event going to the next level this summer, by hosting concerts on the course by superstars Blake Shelton and Darius Rucker.
Visit Quad Cities is going to bid to host the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship and NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championship for 2027 and 2028. This process requires a bid that is due in February. Final decisions will be made in October of 2024.
Herrell expressed that TPC Deere Run in Silvis (home of the JDC) would be an ideal place for these high-level athletes to play, as it’s a PGA Tour course and our community has deeply-rooted experience in hosting high-level tournaments.
Storytelling shares QC experience
Visit QC uses a combination of earned, owned, and paid media together to promote the QC regional destination outside of its geographic footprint. FY23 advertising campaigns garnered more than 3 million impressions. Leisure and group business campaigns, organized by various audience segmentation, were deployed with an emphasis on the “QC, That’s Where” regional brand initiative.
VisitQuadCities.com is one of the primary destination marketing tools used to promote the region and to provide information and experiences for visitors and Quad Citizens. FY23 saw website visitation at its highest since the pandemic’s beginning with 400,000 visitor sessions.
Visit QC continued to expand their social media presence with the highest reach through Facebook, with 6.4 million impressions.
Destination Impact Award
As part of the Destination QC event, two members of the Tourism Master Plan Implementation Leadership Committee were awarded a Destination Impact Award.
- Beth Lagomarcino — co-owner of Lagomarcino’s in Davenport and Moline
- John Maxwell – Dairy farmer in Donahue, Iowa at Cinnamon Ridge Farms
The annual Destination Impact Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made a meaningful contribution to the QC regional destination’s success and has achieved extraordinary outcomes. From record breaking accomplishments, new initiatives, uniqueness, and an overall positive impact on tourism for the community’s benefit. The award recipients are aligned with Visit Quad Cities’ values, mission, and brand promise.
Beth Lagomarcino joined the family business in the 1980s, continuing a candy making tradition that started at the first Lagomarcino’s storefront in Moline in 1908. Lago’s is one of the only soda fountain confectionaries left in the country, making every experience at the store that much more special. Beth, her wonderful family, and her team make an indelible mark on visitors and residents and put smiles on the faces of thousands.
“Lagomarcino’s is a true American success story, and Visit Quad Cities is proud to amplify their story,” the VQC release says. “Beth is always welcoming, shares her leadership and talents with so many community organizations and is a champion of tourism.”
John and Joan Maxwell own Cinnamon Ridge Farms, a 5th-generation dairy farm near Donahue, Iowa. The Maxwells open their farm up to thousands of visitors from around the U.S., including guests from riverboat excursions on the Mississippi River.
John and Joan enjoy sharing their love for agriculture with people of all ages. The Maxwells also care deeply about the environment and leaving the world better than when they found it. Their conservation practices won them recognition as the 2019 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Award Winner and Iowa’s Environmental Leader Award.
John also serves on the Scott County Board of Supervisors and North Scott School Board. Joan serves on Scott County Planning and Zoning Committee and is Vice President of Scott County Farm Bureau.