KING OF PRUSSIA, PA – As Southeastern PA moves into the green phase of reopening, the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) is preparing hotel initiatives, and an aggressive, strategic marketing recovery campaign to help Montgomery County’s normally robust tourism industry bounce back after the public health pandemic.
In Montco, tourism normally contributes $1.65 billion in positive economic impact, and more than 20,000 jobs. However, Montgomery County was one of the first – and hardest hit – areas in the state impacted by the COVID-19 situation.
About 30 events affiliated with the VFTCB have been rescheduled. That’s more than 13,100 hotel room nights, and $13.1 million in positive economic impact for Montco across all market sales market segments - between sports, meetings, and weddings.
But, from Ambler to Pottstown, and everywhere in between, the county’s hotels, restaurants, and attractions are all getting ready to create even safer experiences for residents and visitors.
The VFTCB’s plan is fluid to adapt to the anticipated ongoing stages of reopenings, and focuses first and foremost on health and safety with a strong emphasis on educating the VFTCB’s 600-plus membership base, and visitors, on social distancing, reminders to wear masks (if/when required), and sanitation station information.
The VFTCB’s strategy is to begin targeting the region through digital, and social media in July.
“We are going to lead the region because we’ve got the most aggressive team with strong, unique sales initiatives,” said Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB. “Plus, we’ve got plenty of space out here for people to get outside for some fresh air and sunshine for their health and well-being, while having room to maintain safe social distancing. We see this as a war. We’re ready to fight for the tourism industry in Montgomery County, and to support our small businesses, and we are not giving up. We, and our partners, are bold, risk-takers. Montco is strong. We will rise again.”
To ensure appropriate timing, the VFTCB has been surveying members, hotels, and partners, and hosting webinars.
Specifically, the VFTCB is promoting #MakeItSafe, a slight tweak to the VFTCB’s #MakeItMontco, and a tagline referring to the organization’s commitment to providing visitors with a list of the county’s 8- hotel brand’s cleanliness standards on valleyforge.org.
For example, the Wurzak Hotel Group, which oversees such brands as Sheraton, Hilton, Hyatt Place and Homewood Suites, is taking every precaution to protect team members and guests, according to Chief Operating Officer, Eric. C. Davies. Following CDC guidelines, those precautions include sanitizing stations, signage, and electro-static spraying for complete room sanitation, Davies said.
“We have also removed all high-touch items like pens, pads, and glassware, and placed sanitizing wipes in each guest room,” said Davies. “All guest rooms will remain unoccupied, and sealed, for at least 48 hours until a new guest arrives. We are also leveraging our technology for mobile check-in, and mobile key, which will allow all guests to go directly to their rooms, interaction free.”
Meanwhile, multi-million-dollar hotel renovations, and new construction, are continuing throughout Montgomery County this year. Renovations include:
- Sheraton Valley Forge – full guest room in July
- DoubleTree by Hilton Valley Forge rebranded as the Alloy King of Prussia – $18.5 million, entire hotel
- Crowne Plaza – all ballroom and event space
- Holiday Inn Express King of Prussia – $2.5 million, guest, breakfast, and meeting rooms, and fitness center
- Best Western Fort Washington
- Comfort Inn and Suites Pottstown
As far as new hotels, the Element King of Prussia is still scheduled to open in September, and the Residence Inn in Bala Cynwyd in October.
The Valley Forge National Historical Park’s $14 million major overhaul of its Visitor Center is also continuing throughout the summer.
From restaurants to country clubs, many businesses – both small and large – acclimated to survive the public health pandemic.
Founding Farmers King of Prussia, adapted a grocery market model, then outdoor seating.
“I miss serving guests. Our team misses serving guests. We are SO thrilled to get back to it,” said Founding Farmers Co-Owner, Dan Simons. “Of course we want to do it safely, and we will – our Farm Hospitality has always had guest safety as part the recipe.”
Golf courses like Macoby Run saw the challenge as an opportunity to transform.
“We’ve done nothing since March 13 but brainstorm and create new business models after 30-plus years in business,” said Missy Peart, President of Macoby Run Golf Course. “Reopening and recovery is everyone’s duty at large, not just business owners of any specific industry. If you allow it, ‘unprecedented times,’ and ‘new normal,’ have become the breeding ground for creativity to hopefully transform business, education, healthcare, and the planet at large into a version better than it’s ever been before. We’ve been on this farm 100 years, so we have garnered patience, and failure isn’t an option.”
The trails at the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove have, and will, remain open daily from dusk to dawn for individuals and families to exercise, bird watch, and enjoy nature. However, due to appropriate and necessary responses to COVID-19 that forced a reduced staff and revenue, the center’s reopening to the public and operating schedule may be delayed, according to Jean E. Bochnowski, Deputy State Director of Centers and Operations Audubon Pennsylvania.
“The John James Audubon Center is an important community resource,” Bochnowski said. “We look forward to restarting programming for small groups by the end of July, however, reopening the building itself for public visitation will take more time…there will be a significant burden on remaining staff to keep the building clean and safe for visitors.”
Popular attractions including King of Prussia Mall, Elmwood Park Zoo, the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center, and LEGOLAND Discovery Center Philadelphia are planning to re-open as well.
“We’re excited for guests to return, and we’re preparing to make sure everything is awesome for families to have a safe and fun visit!” said Mike Taylor, General Manager for LEGOLAND Discovery Center.
Here are some more highlights of the VFTCB’s recovery strategy:
- #MakeItMontco Hotel Package – This year’s specialized hotel rates and other deals will start the first day of summer, and extend through the fall, and be offered exclusively through the Visit Valley Forge App. The VFTCB is encouraging folks to change their scenery in Montco, where there’s room to stay, and space to play, while safely social distancing as close to home as possible.
- The marketing team is working on a brand-new campaign to convey the message of hotel and attraction safety, while encouraging regional visitors to change their scenery, while staying as close to home as possible, in a place that offers room to stay, and space to play. The theme will include:
- Family-friendly catered messaging.
- A focus on Montgomery County’s value proposition with affordable hotel rates, and free parking.
- The driveability of Montco’s East Coast location with easy accessibility to major roadways.
- Montco Wellness (for meetings/events as well as consumer/leisure), and outdoor activities like:
- Biking, hiking, and running the county’s almost 100 miles of trails. As an alternative to trails, Bike Montco offers a series of countywide bicycle tours on low-traffic, low-stress streets.
- Golfing at one of Montco’s 50 historic and top-ranked courses (that’s 300,000 yards of play) with safe online booking through GolfNow.
- Al fresco dining.
- Some much-needed retail therapy with both indoor, and outdoor, shopping like the King of Prussia Mall (once fully reopened), the largest retail space in the country.
- Montco’s more than a dozen historic sites, including the Valley Forge National Historical Park.
- #LoveDoesntExpire – The sales team is encouraging meetings and sports clients, and wedding couples, to postpone, not cancel. The weddings staff is specifically emphasizing this phrase as an everlasting message with the opportunity to get married on a weekday vs. a weekend.
“We realize that many people have had to adjust vacation plans this year, and fortunately Montgomery County is a destination that offers a wide range of things to do whether you’re driving here from out of state, or you’re shifting to a staycation,” said Rachel Riley, Director of Communications for the VFTCB. “So, we’re encouraging people to take your weekend during the week for a quick getaway that’s not too far. And, we encourage you to get to know Montco. Download our Visit Valley Forge app to help you plan your visit. Even if you’ve been here before, there’s always something new to discover.”
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.