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Peoria Area Economic Leaders Welcome Phase 5 Reopening

Emily Bollinger

As Illinois enters Phase 5 of the COVID-19 reopening, economic leaders say the Peoria area is poised for a big rebound.

Chris Setti, CEO of the Greater Peoria Economic Development Council, said Friday’s full reopening is a long-awaited boost to tourism and restaurants.

“Maybe even more important than that is that we can have events again,” said Setti. “A lot of our visitor economy here is based around events, whether that's concerts or conventions or sporting events. That's what fills our hotels, and so I'm excited for that.”

The final phase of Gov. JB Pritzker’s Restore Illinois phase ends all capacity limits on businesses and large-scale events. JD Dalfonso, president and CEO of Discover Peoria, echoed Setti’s belief that it will boost the area's hotels and restaurants.

“That's ultimately what we want to see, that outside tax money continuing to come into the community to support our economic recovery. So with being fully open in Phase 5, I like the forecast ahead,” said Dalfonso.

Setti said it still may be a while before the area’s hospitality, entertainment, and restaurant industries completely recover to pre-pandemic levels of activity.

“My crystal ball broke a long time ago, so I don't know how long things will take but I think there's obviously a mixture of things that are happening in that end of the economy,” he said. “People still have their own personal feelings and their comfort level with being in crowds. I think some of that will be a gradual, but I think some people are raring to go back.”

Dalfonso thinks the post-COVID economy already is on a fast track.

“In our world of tourism in the state of Illinois, we were projecting a two-year full recovery. But everything that we projected has come faster than we may have projected in the first place,” he said. “So I stay on the optimistic side saying that will get back there faster.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.