Visit Quad Cities, the region’s official destination management and marketing organization (DMMO), held its Annual Destination QC! Event on Thursday, November 17, 2022. It brought together members of the regional community to amplify tourism’s significance, the industry’s state, and the future of Quad Cities’ tourism. Link to FY22 Annual Destination Impact Report

“Tourism continues to sustain and grow our regional economy,” said Dave Herrell, president and CEO, Visit Quad Cities. “Today’s event amplifies our priority to identify opportunities to further advance the organization’s value through storytelling and community education.  As we think about the destination of the future, we must align stronger to position the Quad Cities region to compete for attention and prosperity but also to frame our community’s values, goals, and energy for competitive advantage. Visit Quad Cities has clarity of purpose and some big goals that we need to achieve, and our Board of Directors and team are committed to working alongside our stakeholders to get there.”

Per the U.S. Travel Association and Tourism Economics, the regional visitor economy in the Quad Cities was $958.76 million in 2020, which was a decline from $1.2B in 2019 which was a record year for tourism, according to a news release. Visitor expenditure data for 2021 will be released soon.  Visitor spending generates significant economic benefits to households, businesses, and the public sector from overnight stays, day trippers, meetings, conventions, sporting events, and group tours. Without a thriving visitor economy, Quad Citizens would shoulder $1400 more in yearly taxes per household, the release says.

Through a partnership with Datafy, Visit Quad Cities now tracks overnight visitation and day-trippers coming into the region.  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 Quad Cities is also using these valuable insights and data to drive advertising decisions, the release says.

Using Datafy, Visit Quad Cities tracked 1.6 million unique visitors from a 50+ mile radius that made 4.5 million trips to the Quad Cities from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022.  These visitors spent 14 million visitor days for an average trip length of 3.1 days.  The top DMAs 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, Missouri, and Minnesota.

Hosting events drives economic impact

Visit Quad Cities continues to sell and market the regional destination to drive value and quality of place. Every year, the Quad Cities hosts hundreds of meetings, conferences, trade shows, group tours, military and family reunions, festivals and special events, and sports events of all sizes. These events generate a positive economic impact through non-resident revenues and support the employment of 8,000 Quad Citizens in the tourism and hospitality industry. In FY22 (July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022) Visit Quad Cities generated $30 million in direct economic impact by securing group business.

Telling and selling the QC story to the world

Visit Quad Cities uses a combination of earned, owned, and paid media together to promote the Quad Cities regional destination outside of its geographic footprint.  FY22 advertising campaigns garnered more than 18 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. At the event, Visit Quad Cities released a new promotional spot you can see here.

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. FY22 saw website visitation at its highest since the pandemic’s beginning with nearly 400,000 visitor sessions. Visit Quad Cities continues to maximize Search Engine Optimization (SEO) with destination content to cultivate new audiences.

Compelling content drives everything, and Visit Quad Cities is a critically important storyteller for our community. Visit Quad Cities reached $15 million in earned media value through stories published about the QC in newspapers, magazines, blogs, online publications, radio, and television. 

A strong social media presence is important and Visit Quad Cities saw the highest reach through Facebook with 3.67 million impressions. They also expanded their digital space for consumer and brand engagement with their texting platform, which now has 3,073 QC Insiders text subscribers. Visit Quad Cities has a robust social presence through platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube, and Pinterest.  

Destination Impact Award

As part of the event, two members of the Tourism Master Plan Implementation Leadership Committee were awarded a Destination Impact Award.

  • Nancy Ballenger – Senior Vice President & General Manager, Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf & Caesars Entertainment/Chair, Tourism Master Plan Implementation Leadership Committee
  • Maria Ontiveros – President, Mercado on Fifth/Board Member, Visit Quad Cities and Board Liaison, Tourism Master Plan Implementation Leadership Committee

Ben Leischner, Executive Director, Quad Cities International Airport/Board Chairman, Visit Quad Cities, along with Kai Swanson, Rock Island County Board and Augustana College Special Assistant to the President/Immediate Past Chair, Visit Quad Cities, presented the awards.

The annual Destination Impact Award recognizes an individual or organization that has made a meaningful contribution to the Quad Cities 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.

About the Award Winners

Nancy Ballenger has a 30-plus-year career in the casino/hospitality industry. She was a member of the inaugural team (then Diamond Lady) that launched riverboat gaming in Iowa in 1991. She is currently the Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Isle Casino Hotel Bettendorf (a Caesars Entertainment property), the largest hotel in Iowa. In 2018, she was awarded the Iowa Women Leaders in Gaming Founders Award in recognition of her leadership role and her significant contributions to Iowa’s gaming industry. In 2019, she was a nominee for the Athena International – Women Lead Change award. Ballenger is a current board member of the Iowa Gaming Association.

Maria Ontiveros is the Corporate Community Liaison for Illinois Quad Cities-based Group O, one of the largest Hispanic-owned companies in the U.S. She also is President of Mercado on Fifth, a nonprofit organization that hosts a weekly Hispanic night market featuring food trucks, vendor booths, Latin entertainment and activities for kids. Ontiveros helped launch the organization in 2016 and soon after started the Spanish language Food Sanitation Management program at Black Hawk College, helping Spanish speakers become certified to open food service businesses. Mercado has since helped create and/or provided a platform for over 50 new minority-owned businesses in the Quad Cities. Ontiveros, a 2008 graduate of Bettendorf High School and a 2012 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, also serves as a board member of the Rock Island County Metropolitan Mass Transit District (MetroLINK), Visit Quad Cities, United Way Quad Cities, Quad City Arts and Two Rivers YMCA.

About Visit Quad Cities

Founded in 1990, Visit Quad Cities is the official and industry-certified Destination Management and Marketing Organization (DMMO) for the region. Visit Quad Cities is a private 501(c)(6) non-profit engine charged with driving economic opportunity through tourism, building our authentic brand, telling and selling the Quad Cities story, and enhancing Quad Citizens’ quality of life and quality of place.