Today’s story in the Pontiac Daily Leader gave many details about a tourism summit Monday in the Route 66 town of Pontiac, Ill., and how local officials and businesses will handle travelers in the future.
It’d been previously reported that Pontiac was seeing a 30 percent increase in tourists in 2011. But City Administrator Bob Karls provided information that showed how impressive and sustaining that increase is:
“The tourism thing really took off in 2004 with the opening of the Route 66 Museum and after the opening, we were seeing about a 5 percent increase in the attendance at the museum every year,” said Karls.
“In 2009, something happened and we went up 30 percent. In 2010 up another 30 percent and 2011 — another 30 percent. So we are really starting to grow this thing exponentially. If you carry this out with a 30-percent growth over the next three years, the 20,000 visitors will become 40,000 visitors, and three years later those 40,000 will become 80,000. So the visitors are coming,” said Karls.
Some other tidbits from the meeting:
- Karls expects an invasion of British travelers in 2012 after “Billy Connolly’s Route 66” aired in the United Kingdom a few weeks ago. He said British travel companies are “inundated” with Route 66 tour requests, and next year will likely be Pontiac’s biggest ever for international travelers.
- Pontiac is trying to figure how to better communicate with non-English-speaking tourists.
- Also, the city is seeking solutions for airline restrictions; baggage rules restrict the amount of souvenirs international tourists can buy.
- Karls urged that businesses open on Sundays to take advantage of the large number of tourists on weekends.
- Pontiac Tourism director Ellie Alexander said the city’s tourism calendar already is filled for 2012, which is unusually early.
- Pontiac tourism was boosted by a Chicago Tribune article that was distributed by the Associated Press nationwide.
- Tourists are praising the hospitality and cooperation of residents. The mayor received many “flattering” cards and e-mails about this.
- Future plans include a new Route 66 Plaza, near the new parking lot west of the Law and Justice Center.
- The state of Illinois estimates that Pontiac’s tourism activities have created 210 jobs.