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Discover Peoria leader: Area’s hotel businesses are getting back to normal

Discover Peoria President and CEO JD Dalfonso speaks during a 2021 news conference at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.
Joe Deacon
Discover Peoria President and CEO JD Dalfonso speaks during a 2021 news conference at the Peoria Riverfront Museum.

Nearly four years since the onset of COVID-19, the Peoria area’s hotel and tourism industries have bounced back well.

That’s according to JD Dalfonso, president and CEO of Discover Peoria, also known as the Peoria Area Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

“It's been a journey to get here, but I'm proud to say that we've seen some strong recovery in many, many areas in which we track for the data and success of our hotels and our community as a whole,” said Dalfonso.

“When we're talking about occupancy, we're starting to see trends that indicate levels prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. More importantly, we're seeing a strong, strong, quick recovery in the average daily rate (ADR).”

Dalfonso says the ADR is used as a comparison tool when competing with other destinations for attracting business conferences. He says the Peoria area’s current ADR stood at about $110 at the end of 2023.

“In our world, we want higher ADRs with a good occupancy showing,” said Dalfonso. “That means you’re priced well to make money for the hotels, and it's not deterring people from coming here. It's a very delicate balance.”

Dalfonso said the Peoria region was fortunate that its ADR did not fall off drastically during the height of the pandemic shutdown, when hotel occupancy dipped as low as 15%.

“It was very difficult for some destinations to keep an ADR that was healthy, but the Peoria area did,” he said. “And over the last few years, it's paid off well because it's harder to recover. It’s easy to drop the rates, but it’s harder to bring them back up when the time comes.”

Dalfonso said his office has also seen signs of a recovery in tourism and convention business around Peoria.

“We started seeing that the events have come back. What's also indicating an upward trajectory is the amount of attendees,” he said. “It was one thing for the events to say, ‘yes, we’ll come in person or in a hybrid fashion. But it was another thing to see the attendance hit the levels of the pre-pandemic numbers, and that's what we're seeing, as well as an increase in some areas.”

Dalfonso said they haven't yet noticed inflation having a detrimental impact on the local travel and tourism industry.

“What we're seeing is there's no restriction on people going out and enjoying experiences,” he said. “People are spending the money. (Inflation) is a factor; it's on people's mind, but it hasn't hit a breaking point to deter people from doing traveling.”

Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.