Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) staff recently presented an optimistic industry outlook as part of their annual State of Tourism to the Montgomery County, PA Commissioners.
Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB, and other employees reported positive economic impact from hospitality gaining back ground with continued expected growth, record sports numbers, a focus on smaller corporate Life Science meetings, and the return of events celebrating the promotion of restaurants, Montco Makers, arts and jazz in the county.
Visitor spending generated $1.4 billion in 2021 – that’s within $200 million of 2019 levels – and 17,000 jobs, Bowman said.
“We’re focused on trends, and we’re seeing incredible sales momentum between targeting smaller corporate Life Science meetings, and sports being a driving force,” said Bowman. “We’re using insights and consumer behavior to make data-driven decisions to keep things fresh and creative.”
Montco saw the recovery of leisure travel in 2022. In fact, 80% of American travelers are optimistic about travel – especially road trips, which is ideal for a drivable location such as Montgomery County (within a day’s drive of 45 million people) – and 79% already have trips planned, according to Destination Analysts. Inflation, and a potential recession are still concerns, though.
In 2023, Montco’s hotel room revenue is expected to reach a record high at $269 million, a potential 9% increase from 2022. That translates to overall positive economic impact and jobs for restaurants, historical sites, attractions, and arts and culture venues, said Jake Markezin, VFTCB Vice President of Operations.
The county continues to lead the suburban market with more than 1.8 million hotel room nights sold last year – 40% of the market share. By the end of this year, Montgomery County will have 83 hotels, and 9,500 rooms – double the rest of the suburban counties. That includes the brand-new Elstowe Manor at Elkins Estate expected to open in 2023, and $250 million in hotel capital investment and renovations, said Scott Higgins, VFTCB Director of Sales.
Coming off a record year with $65 million in economic impact, the Valley Forge Sports Team has already confirmed new tournaments for $11 million, and will be strongly focused on inclusive sporting events. The VFTCB will be focused on bringing more mid-week meetings to the county with phase three of its “Rooms” campaign, focused heavily on Life Sciences, which made up 63% of corporate bookings in 2022, thanks partly to Montco’s large pharmaceutical presence, Higgins said.
With the help of internationally performing artist and University of Pennsylvania Vocal Teacher, Joanna Pascale and guitarist – and Ambler native – Jacob Kelberman, Rachel Riley, Associate Vice President of Communications for the VFTCB, announced a “Women in Jazz” theme for the 2nd Annual Montco Jazz Fest as part of Arts Montco Week in September. The VFTCB will also be expanding its three Arts Montco Walls to include the organization’s first-ever outdoor murals.
The 3rd Annual Crave Montco Month – the only month-long dining and restaurant promotion in the region – will also return in July to try to drive traffic to restaurants and Montco Makers during a typically slower month, and educate consumers about the county’s eclectic culinary scene, said Riley.
In addition, the VFTCB’s marketing team will be sticking with the easy, affordable, family-friendly trip messaging consumers still want with fresh tactics including out-of-home opportunities, TikTok, and consumer and media activations to markets like Philadelphia, New York, D.C., and Baltimore, according to Justine Garbarino, Associate Vice President of Marketing for the VFTCB.
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.