Cape had great year drawing visitors

In the area of tourism, there is no doubt the city has been very successful in drawing more people.

Over the years, the city government, with the support of voters, has developed more infrastructure and recruitment to make the city an attractive destination. Private enterprise has done even more.

In a story recently published in the Southeast Missourian, it was reported that hotel tax collections increased by 10.54 percent in fiscal year 2013. The fiscal year runs from July through June, so those numbers don't even account for the "Gone Girl" filming. Between the beginning of fiscal year 2011 through 2013, hotel tax collections increased by 25.75 percent.

When we think of tourism, we think about things such as parks -- the water park facility; natural attractions such as the river (enhanced by the river wall murals); trails, museums and shopping. But there is a lot more to a city's draw -- specifically overnight visitors -- than these.

Indeed, in a story published earlier this month in the Southeast Missourian, leisure travel was identified as the No. 1 draw for visitors to the area. The information was provided by the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, based on data provided by hotels in the city.

Leisure travelers were defined as people who chose to vacation in Cape Girardeau, as well as travel groups and interstate travelers.

As far as leisure travel, it's easy to tick off a number of venues developed just since 2000. From the conservation center to Cape Girardeau's water park, to the casino to the children's museum and the Lazy L Safari Park. There are many things for people of all ages to do in and around the city.

But it might have come as a surprise to many to discover that construction was the No. 2 overnight draw to the city of Cape Girardeau in 2013. There is no question the Saint Francis Medical Center expansion had a lot to do with that. Amateur sports came in as the third-biggest draw. The state Special Olympics and the Missouri high school volleyball tournament were two of the most significant events here, but there are several smaller Little League sports tournaments held throughout the year that collectively have made a big impact. Of course, Southeast Missouri State University sports are a big draw as well. The university is a big driver for visitors; many restaurant managers say the biggest visitor days of the year are graduations at Southeast Missouri State University. Homecoming and parents' weekends are others.

Medical tourism is another big draw, as you might expect, and came in No. 4 on the list. The city's two major hospitals serve a wide area, and that means overnight stays for many family members when loved ones are ill.

The social market, corporate travel, government business travel and entertainment rounded out the list of the top eight reasons people stay overnight in Cape Girardeau.

A handful of special events in 2013 drew big crowds, and dollars, to the city. The first was the aforementioned production of the movie "Gone Girl." That meant about two months of hotel stays, meals at restaurants and shopping as the large movie crew made Cape Girardeau hotel rooms home for several weeks. Another was the Great Race, a national vintage car race that cruised through town, thanks to the recruiting efforts of car activists and the CVB. There was an air show, too.

Many aspects of the city came together and helped keep Cape Girardeau moving in 2013. People who drove into our city also tipped our waiters and waitresses. They purchased gas, bought coffee. They shopped at our antique stores. They bought newspapers. Tax revenue from taxes on hotel and motel stays and meals out in the city totaled more than $2 million in fiscal year 2013 alone.

As a destination, the city made a name for itself last year. Here's to all who recruit and serve our visitors. Here's to keeping it rolling in 2014.