Pontiac Tourism Numbers Continue to Climb
The following is an article written by Cynthia Grau, originally published in the Pontiac Daily Leader:
Pontiac has seen a major increase in the number of visitors in the past year. Ellie Alexander, director of Pontiac Tourism, said, “in 2011, we had just over 18,000 visitors. Last year, we had just short of 23,000 visitors sign our guest books. As only a portion of the visitors actually sign in, the total number of visitors was estimated somewhere near 30,000.”
Dr. Robert Roarty, also of Pontiac Tourism, explained, “The last four years aggregately, each of the four years has been up about 23 percent from the year prior, so we’re right on where we have been for the last four years. Since 2009, it’s steadily gone up between 23 and 25 percent each year.”
Contributing heavily to tourism growth were visits by car clubs and international bus tours. “We had over 40 different car clubs come during the summer and our international is up over 1,000 people this year over last year. That’s the tours and anyone signing the guest books,” Roarty said. He also said that the travel-related events that Alexander attends are starting to bear some fruit in new groups booking tours to the area.
Visitors also enjoyed three new attractions to Pontiac in 2012. “The guilder’s exhibit inside the Walldog Museum, the 1940s exhibit inside the Route 66 museum and Block 59, the whole new park and the millstones were new in 2012. This is just the first phase of that (the park), so that will continue to develop, but that’s new this year. The new sidewalk mural was also painted in May (in front of Lydia’s Cup). Tang Dongbai is going to be doing another one this coming May,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know where it will be and what the subject of the mural will be. Groups and individuals are already booking for this and next year and the numbers seem to be steady.
“We’ve already had one coach tour that has already booked 17 visits for this year. That’s just one tour group,” Roarty explained, adding another explanation about the length of stay. “I think most tour groups’ stays are just a few hours. They’re starting in Chicago and I think they overnight in Springfield or St. Louis, depending on which group. We’ve been working with them and so far, this year, one tour group that’s going to do two different overnights here, but that takes time to develop. First they have to come and they have to see all we have, then they have to hear from the folks on the tour that they wanted to stay longer, because they do plan these tours several years in advance. We’re hoping that, this year, we’ll be able to impress them enough that word of mouth will get around that Pontiac is worth an overnight stay.”
One big hit that people have enjoyed in Pontiac are performances from the Vermillion Players. Tourism uses that as an added incentive for overnight stays. “When we have an overnight, we do the musical revue and people just love them. That’s a big point we’re pushing and the new groups that come in all want to have that entertainment for one of the nights here and that is something we only offer for the overnight groups. That’s a big bonus for us in terms of marketing being able to offer them a free, professionally-staged wonderful musical revue on the night they stay in Pontiac,” Roarty stated.
The city of Pontiac continues to receive letters, cards and e-mails from its guests on an almost weekly basis, expressing the delight of their stay here. They’ve also written letters to travel magazines, sending accolades to Pontiac and all of its places to visit.
We welcome your Route 66 news, stories, photos and events for publication in our newsletter or on our web site!