Tourism director says future is bright in Belleville
Cathleen Lindauer is the only director the Belleville Tourism office has ever known.
Tapped for the job that was created in 1991 thanks to a new hotel/motel tax in the city, she and a corps of volunteers basically have two goals: make sure visitors have a good time when they come to Belleville, and make sure they spend their money while they’re here.
Lindauer celebrates her 25th year on the job this month. She said a new hotel hasn’t been built in Belleville in her lifetime, but now that plans to build up to four of them in a development anchored by a Hofbrauhaus that’s under construction on Illinois 15 are coming to fruition, the game is about to change.
Q: How did Belleville Tourism start?
A: “It started with an all-volunteers system trying to think of how to get motor coach groups to come to Belleville. They lobbied for the hotel/motel tax of 5 percent and got that passed through the city council. They needed a part-time tourism director, and they hired me. We took off from there. We did step-on guide services, putting together groups to visit St. Peter’s Cathedral, Belleville’s Main Street, Eckert’s Farm, the Lincoln Theater, the Way of Lights at the Shrine. Everything has expanded, which is great.” (NOTE: The city’s hotel/motel tax remained at 5 percent until 2015, when it rose to 8 percent as part of the incentive package city officials offered developers in hopes of landing the Shrine project.)
Q: How have volunteers been critical to Belleville Tourism’s mission?
A: “Our volunteers have been excellent. We could not have our expanded services or our organization as strong as they are without volunteers. Our volunteers have really stayed with us and stayed on course for 25 years. They do mailing routes, distribute brochures. It’s astounding what they all do, still, after 25 years.”
Q: How does Belleville stack up in terms of tourism in a region that also includes St. Louis as a destination?
A: “With St. Louis, we do have motor coaches that are going back and forth there. It’s nice that St. Louis is a destination, but we have a lot of motor coaches that have been there and done that. We have some come over from St. Louis because they’re looking for something different. We have that something different. We have the small German community that they haven’t been to. We’re a great day trip for St. Louis people. We have a little bit of everything to offer. We have a big historic district. We have a beautiful Main Street with unique shopping.”
Q: Belleville hasn’t had a new hotel built in decades. What do the plans to build up to four of them in the coming years as part of the Hofbrauhaus development mean for tourism in Belleville?
A: “It’s going to be very exciting. It’s something new. Especially how they’re going to do it. They’re bringing in a very unusual restaurant. The Hofbrauhaus is going to be a destination in itself. I think when they’re coming in with something new as a destination, not just a hotel and a conference center, they’re really bringing in first a destination. That’s going to be huge in itself. Then they’re going to bring in the conference center and the hotels. And then they’re going to add recreation with the soccer fields. So they’re bringing in a destination, and they’re going to bring in some fun recreational events along with those hotels. So that’s what’s going to be so unusual and interesting and something different. It’s going to be so exciting; I can hardly wait. And I know our community is going to embrace it. I think they’re really going to have fun with it.”
Q: Does that change the game in Belleville and the metro-east?
A: “It definitely changes the game in the whole region. I think the whole region is going to be excited about it.”
A: “Yes. We get a lot of people who come to me and say ‘We have one more event for you to market/promote, or I have something else coming up.’ They think that’s like a burden to me. No, it’s not. The more events we have, the easier it is on my job because the more things we have, the more people want to come. We might have two or three things going on one weekend, and they think that’s a bad thing. It’s actually a good thing. Some people might not come for just one event. But when they see another thing and another thing, maybe they’ll come. The more the better. The easier the sell it is for my job, because what I’m always doing is selling to visitors, and I enjoy that. We do always want to make sure everybody has a good time when they come to Belleville. We of course also want them to spend their money in Belleville, that’s what we’re after. But first of all, we want them to have a good time.”
The Belleville Tourism office can be reached at either 618-233-6769 or 800-677-9255.
Job: Director, Belleville Tourism
Outlook: “With established historic sites and new development on the horizon, the future for tourism here is bright.”