With fiscal year 2020 wrapped up, we are pleased to share our annual report and what we’ve been working on this past year with the public.

The year started with the ongoing Missouri River flooding and ending in the midst of a pandemic. Both had significant impacts on Council Bluffs and its travel economy.

Despite the challenges, there were numerous accomplishments achieved this year. We saw hotel occupancy increase year-over-year, July 2019 thru February 2020, recovering nearly all hotel/motel taxes lost due to the flooding in fiscal year 2019.

In efforts to continue to attract visitors and events to town, our director of sales, Alicia Frieze, reached out to 185 unique prospects looking for cities to host their event. This year, we brought 11 sporting events to town along with 11 meetings and conventions.

We worked throughout the year to position our new office to become an official Iowa Welcome Center by acquiring brochure racks with 296 slots, recruiting volunteers to assist with staffing, and installing three large area maps of the city, county, and metro.

The fiscal year started off with ambitious upgrades to UNleashCB.com to improve its appearance and function for both visitors and locals. More fresh content appeared on the website in the form of 117 blogs, a 46% increase over fiscal year 2019.

By year-end, website usage surged by double-digits in page views, unique users, and sessions – 19, 32, and 24 percent, respectively. All social media platforms created nearly 1.2 million impressions (a 10.3% increase from fiscal year 2019) and recruited 1,067 more followers.  

In March, the CBCVB was honored by the Iowa Tourism Office with the Outstanding Website and Outstanding Community awards for the second time in two-and-a-half years. Council Bluffs has been recognized with six tourism awards since 2014.

As soon as COVID-19 hit in Iowa, we knew that it was our responsibility to keep both residents and visitors up to date with what was happening in Council Bluffs. We implemented website upgrades that helped inform web users of closures, safety measures, guidelines, and event cancelations or postponements.

We surveyed CB hotels to estimate lost business and more than $3.6 million was reported due to the cancelation of major events in the area. Thirteen sporting events and two meetings were lost due to COVID-19.

An aggressive marketing campaign was developed to grow hotel business and hotel/motel tax receipts by convincing locals to plan staycations or to reunite with their friends and family in CB, and also marketed Council Bluffs as a getaway destination for travelers within a two to three-hour radius. This campaign will continue into fiscal year 2021.

For more details and some words from our executive director and the president of our board of directors, please view our full annual report.

This post was originally published on August 20, 2020 on the Unleash Council Bluffs blog.