Annual Report: https://vftcbannualreport.org/
KING OF PRUSSIA, PA – Even after almost two years of turmoil and crisis, throughout 2020-2021 tourism has still provided positive economic impact that has resonated across the entire Montgomery County community, the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) released in an annual report to members and partners.
Despite continued ups and downs from the pandemic, the Montco hospitality industry results saw steady improvements over 2020, with numbers in 2021 starting to make a slow climb back to 2019 levels – which had increased to record growth at that time, according to Tourism Economics.
Visitor spending still reached $973 million in 2020, supporting more than 14,500 jobs. That’s a 40% decline from $1.65 billion in 2019, and an 18% loss in tourism-supported jobs. More than 1.3 million hotel rooms were booked in Montco as compared to 2.1 million in 2019 (a 37% decrease). And, the 50% hotel room revenue decline – from $250 million to $125 million – is still lower than the overall 60% decrease throughout the rest of the Philadelphia region.
While international travel isn’t expected to reach 2019 levels until 2024, Valley Forge Sports business is anticipated to rise 7% over 2019 numbers by the end of this year. That’s a record high for the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB), and a 50% increase over 2020 – making it the most productive year for sports in the history of the organization.
“There have definitely been some tough moments over the last 18 months or so,” said Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB. “From the Delta variant to damage from storms, flooding, and even tornadoes…you name it, it feels like it’s happened here in Montgomery County. But, we’ve been meeting those challenges together with the help and support of our county, members, and partners. We’re trying to take the good with the bad, and we feel pretty good about the energy flowing in the suburbs right now. Our restaurant business has been through the roof. Visitation to our attractions has been up. Our sales team has been traveling again. We may not be back to where we were in 2019, but we’re much better off than we were last year. We’ve found reasons to have hope for a brighter future.”
From volleyball and lacrosse to paintball and flag football, sports represented 77% of group business for the VFTCB with more than 50 events hosted (16 new), 45,000 room nights, and more than $40 million economic impact. Some more sports highlights:
- NXL Paintball brought their Mid Atlantic Major (new event) to Limerick Township, producing 2,400 total room nights, and $3 million in economic impact.
- A.fatti Pro Breaking Tour Philly Open (breakdancing) hosted a new event for the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center with a plan to return and expand in 2022.
- Spikeball Roundnet Nationals 2021, another new event at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, provided a unique use of the fields with circular spikeball courts.
“Sports have definitely been a positive, silver lining through these challenging times,” said Lisa Karl, Vice President of Sales & Strategic Partnerships. “This reflects our positive sales team approach. Everyone stepped up with persistence and determination. But, this milestone is also a result of years of strategically spending more time, effort, and resources to build a foundation that enhances our competitive edge over other destinations by strengthening partnerships with our facilities, lead generators, and relationships with our towns and county to work together to bring as many sporting events to Montco as possible.”
At least two other VFTCB first-time initiatives also proved successful in promoting and supporting two of the segments hardest hit by COVID in an already heavily impacted tourism industry: restaurants/Montco Makers (representing more than 1,850 restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the county) and the arts (representing more than 200 venues).
The food and beverage industry accounts for 22,500 employees – 4% of employment – in the county, the third highest in the state with more than 11% expected growth between 2018-2028, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. The VFTCB’s first-ever Crave Montco Month had more than 100 restaurants and Montco Makers participants with: 4,000 website clicks, more than 200,000 social media impressions, and 96 press hits with more than 390 million in reach thanks to PR partners, En Route.
Montco’s arts and cultural attractions usually represent $100 million in positive economic impact, not to mention hundreds if not thousands of jobs. More than 40 arts and culture venues participated in the VFTCB’s inaugural Arts Montco Week with more than 1 million media impressions, over 23,000 clicks, and almost 100 articles for a reach of 84.5 million thanks to PR partner, Bryan Buttler Media Relations.
“We wanted to do everything we could to support our restaurants and Montco Makers who’ve been dealing with so much, and some were in tears, they were so grateful and appreciative for the free promotion,” said Rachel Riley, Senior Director of Communications for the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board. “Likewise, some of our arts and culture venues were only just able to reopen their doors this fall. The arts are so important to our mental health, and we all need that outlet now more than ever. Our goal with both of these initiatives was to reinvigorate economic impact, get folks back to work, and raise awareness about Montgomery County as both a dining and arts destination.”
Here are some other positive VFTCB and Montgomery County success stories:
- Montco’s family of 80 hotels (that’s 9,400 rooms) welcomed two new properties with two more coming in 2022, and nine started or completed renovations this year:
- New hotels in 2021 – Residence Inn Bala Cynwyd (124 guest rooms) and Element King of Prussia (120 guest rooms)
- New hotels in 2022- Tapestry Collection by Hilton in Conshohocken (165 guest rooms), and La Quinta Inn and Suites in Lansdale (100 guest rooms)
- Renovations – Best Western Fort Washington, Hampton Inn Willow Grove, Sheraton Valley Forge, Holiday Inn Lansdale, Comfort Inn Pottstown, Residence Inn Montgomeryville, Days Inn Pottstown, Chubb Hotel and Conference Center (now the Union League Liberty Hill), and Marriott Philadelphia West
- The Revolutionary Events team generated more than 11,000 room nights through August. The ArborEXPO at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center provided 1,800 room nights for $2 million in economic impact, and the group will be returning in 2022 and 2023. The VFTCB staff is leaning on new technology like virtual tours to expand reach, and has taken a regional approach to entice those who can drive to Montco.
- Montco Weddings generated more than 3,000 room nights as of August with the help of a celebrations campaign, digital ads, lead generation, social, and the Registry Gift incentive program to bring new weddings to hotels. Since some couples were forced to delay dates due to limited availability in 2021, a surge in weddings is expected in 2022.
- The VFTCB was able to host a mix of in-person and virtual events, including: Travel Rally and Montco Golf Classic, Hotel General Manager and Director of Sales Meetings, Sports Stakeholder Meetings, and virtual Tourism Talks, APGA press conferences, and Montco in the Know information sessions.
- The Advocates Professional Golf Association partnered with the VFTCB and Montco Golf to host the group’s first northeastern United States tournament, bringing its mission of diversity to the sport in Montco for a total of 108 media clips with an online news audience of more than 331 million.
- Traffic to MontcoGolf.com also increased 75% year over year with more than 3 million impressions in digital advertising.
- The VFTCB’s Make It Main Street marketing initiative and partnership with County Commerce continued to highlight small, local businesses with: 400+ radio spots, more than 59,000 pageviews, 760,000 video views, 4 million individuals reached on social, more than 600 TV spots and 20 million impressions, 9.5 million digital impressions, and 77 earned article placements for 11 million in exposure.
- Valley Forge National Historical Park reopened its recently renovated Visitor Center building, and the VFTCB’s county welcome center with the new museum exhibits expected to open at the end of 2021, or early 2022. The $12 million rehabilitation project started in late fall 2018, and is the building’s first major overhaul since 1976.
- The VFTCB’s virtual Valley Forge Revolutionary 5-Mile Run welcomed more than 600 participants from 25 states and three countries.
- The Montco Makers summer rewards program drove visitation to wineries, distilleries, and breweries through the mobile app, increasing app users by more than 28%, and pageviews to MontcoMakers.com by 82%.
- Throughout the year, valleyforge.org saw more than 1 million pageviews.
- The VFTCB distributed more than 100 press releases for more than 800 stories about Montgomery County reaching over 600 million people.
- The VFTCB’s social media following grew to more than 164,000 and more than 300 posts garnered more than 4 million impressions and 2 million video views.
“We’re always committed to working diligently and creatively to fill hotel rooms to drive positive economic impact for our industry, and get people back to work,” Bowman said. “The return of these jobs is crucial to the county’s future economic rebound. We have so much respect for our Hospitality Heroes, and we celebrate them. We will rise above this. We will move beyond this.”
The Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) is a nonprofit, membership-based sales and marketing organization that actively promotes Valley Forge and Montgomery County, PA as a convention site and leisure visitor destination by encouraging patronage of its 500+ member hotels, restaurants, attractions, and services. The award-winning website links visitors, meeting planners, tour operators, and residents to a diverse portfolio of brands focused on reasons to visit the region.