The return of conventions boosts tourism in Dubuque
With multiple conferences at event centers and hotels in Dubuque in the coming months, local leaders hope the gradual return of large gatherings will bolster the region’s tourist season.
The International Snowmobile Congress wraps up today at the Grand River Center, attracting over 400 attendees. This week, the convention center will welcome more than 600 visitors for the Iowa Association of Business and Industry’s annual Taking Care of Business conference, at which Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds is scheduled to speak.
Dubuque will host several other events this summer poised to attract attendees from a wide range of fields, from a state gathering of county auditors to a gathering of Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts.
The busy schedule is one more sign of a local tourism industry recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Julie Kronlage, vice president of sales for Travel Dubuque.
“While it’s been pretty quiet in 2020 and 2021, we’ve definitely seen a rebound in 2022,” she said. “Our hotels that offer meeting services see some great local and regional business groups coming in…and we know that when we fill the convention center, the impact it has on the whole city is remarkable. “
Andrea Willey, a volunteer with the Iowa State Snowmobile Association and president of this year’s International Snowmobile Congress, said this is the fourth time Iowa has hosted the event.
“There are many different avenues for tourism here,” she said, noting attendees toured the Field of Dreams film site in Dyersville on Thursday evening. “We like to showcase Iowa when we have (congress), and Dubuque is the number one city in the state, so we thought that would be a good venue. He had just everything we needed to be able to make a successful event.
Jack Hasken, president and CEO of Jackson Manufacturing in Maquoketa and current chairman of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, said the Taking Care of Business conference has been held in Dubuque several times, the last in 2017.
“ABI members love Dubuque,” he said. “They see the success we have here. They see how we have diversified our economy and invested in infrastructure and businesses, and what a great city Dubuque is.
The ABI conference will include networking, workshops, guest speakers and industry tours, as well as time to visit local attractions such as Eagle Point Park, Mathias Ham House and Steeple Square.
Grand River Center general manager Mitzi Yordy said the rest of the summer at the convention center will be largely filled with weddings and similar social events, but conventions and corporate gatherings will resume around September. .
“It’s a long way from the pre-COVID era, but we’re seeing an increase,” she said, adding that convention attendance is still somewhat slowed as people continue to take advantage of virtual options. . “It’s definitely better – not quite normal, but it’s better.”
Dwight Hopfauf, general manager of Hotel Julien Dubuque, said the hotel is seeing strong bookings for local, regional and state groups.
“I think there’s a corporate-style business comeback faction, although I think it’s still sporadic when it comes to big events,” he said. “There are more small businesses starting to happen.”
Whether it’s an international gathering or a regional conference, Hopfauf said inbound travel to any hotel or conference center in the region benefits the rest by increasing local market compression. When a hotel is full, additional travelers are pressured to find alternative accommodations, and hotels can often sell their few remaining rooms at a higher rate.
“The more travel there is in a community, the more time there is for all the hotels, restaurants, lounges, and gas stations…because travelers bring money with them and they spend it,” did he declare.
Kronlage said the Iowa State Association of County Auditors will hold their summer conference at the Julien Hotel later this month, and the North American Trainers Association will return to Dubuque Regional Airport for their training event. annual featuring vintage military aircraft in late July.
Also in July, Hôtel Julien will host the first regional Mid-America HOG (Harley Owners Group) rally, a gathering of Harley-Davidson motorcycle enthusiasts. Hopfauf said more than 900 people are registered to attend the event, from 32 US states and Canada.
“I know every hotel in the community has a certain level of passengers who will be staying with them,” he said. “It will be a big problem.”