The Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) welcomed 100 attendees at the beautiful Bluestone Country Club for the organization’s first in-person, all-outdoor event in over a year to promote tourism and national travel in the county and highlight the board’s 2021 strategic initiatives.
Socially distanced and wearing masks, the group celebrated U.S. Travel’s National Travel & Tourism Week – and Monty the Fox’s (official Montgomery County mascot) fourth birthday – with a hot air balloon, a Scottish bagpiper and drummer, the 5th Annual Montco Golf Classic, and the 2021 Montco Golf Guide launch.
Guests heard announcements about two upcoming events: the first-ever Crave Montco Month – a 31-day restaurant promotion in July, and the brand-new Arts Montco Week – a weeklong celebration of cultural attractions in September. The goal of both events is to promote two of the most heavily impacted segments within the already hard-hit tourism and hospitality industry: restaurants and the arts.
Montgomery County is home to more than 1,850 restaurants and Montco Makers (breweries, wineries, and distilleries).
That’s 22,500 employees, which accounts for 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 month-long restaurant promotion will be free for restaurants and Montco Makers to participate in 31 days of meals, drinks, and deals, including a refresh to the free Montco Makers app and monthly contest, a website, videos, blog content, PR, and social plan.
“We know there is an appetite for people wanting to go out to eat,” said Rachel Riley, Senior Director of Communications for the VFTCB. “They’re craving date nights, celebrating missed birthdays, or event just Tuesdays. We’re hopeful that consumers will indulge and satisfy those cravings in Montco.”
To bring awareness to the campaign, the VFTCB will be spotlighting a Hospitality Hero in the food and beverage industry weekly on its social platform.
Arts Montco Week – Sept. 17-26 – is being held to help encourage support of the county’s 200 arts and culture venues, which normally represent $100 million in positive economic impact, not to mention hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs. Similar to Crave, the festival will be free for arts and culture venues to participate with no requirements on in-person or virtual programming, as well as a website, blog, video, PR, and social campaign.
“We can’t lose groups that address racial justice, serve the LGBTQ community, provide accessibility, and create workforce development opportunities, not to mention offering a welcoming home to some who may feel like they don’t fit in anywhere else,” said Riley.
The goal of both initiatives is to help reinvigorate the county tourism’s normally robust $1.65 billion positive economic impact – including more than 25,000 jobs, said VFTCB President & CEO, Mike Bowman, who talked about the excitement of having an in-person event, even socially distanced with masks.
“Tourism is certainly powerful in Montgomery County, PA,” said Bowman. “Our industry has been bent, sure, but not broken! Travel can change us, shape us, and have a positive impact on all of our lives. We need that now more than ever, and we know that our suburbs is going to come out of this strong. Together, we’re going to work hard to use that power to turn things around, and get people back to work.”
In addition to continuing to push the #MakeItMontco Hotel Experience to help drive room nights with a soon-to-be-announced strategy, and #MakeItMainStreet campaign to encourage support of small, local businesses, the VFTCB also revealed some of the success of Valley Forge Sports Events, which have proven to be recession-proof.
This summer, the organization will be hosting 30-plus events with more than 20,000 room nights, and $20 million in economic impact including:
- Two of the largest lacrosse showcases in the country
- The first-ever Esports festival at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks
- A brand-new national field hockey event at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken
- The USA Climbing North American Cup Series featuring the top Olympic climbers in the country at Reach Climbing in Bridgeport
- And, one of the first-ever all-girls flag football tournaments with college scouts
Cole Smith, Executive Director of the Advocates Pro Golf Association Tour also shared via video message his excitement about the group coming to Bluestone this fall, Sept. 20-22. The APGA Tour is a diversity-focused group competition with a rising professional golf circuit comprised primarily of African American players.
One of 13 tournaments planned for the 12-year-old series, it’s the first time the tour will be coming to the northeastern United States, and the first time they’ve worked with a regional tourism board on a tournament.
Geoffrey Surrette, Executive Director of the Philadelphia PGA, spoke about the section’s Centennial milestone, and the power of Montco Golf’s 50 historic and top-ranked courses, which have seen significant national travel participation increases through the pandemic with more expected this year.
The VFTCB also launched the 2021 Montco Golf Guide to celebrate the perfect social-distancing sport. Content includes: interviews with local pros, budget-friendly courses, unique golf holes, and a feature on Bluestone’s 18-hole, PAR 71, 6,400-acre championship course designed for all skill levels.
Kirsten Tallman, Director of Visitor Services for the VFTCB, discussed the Valley Forge National Historical Park’s $14 million Visitor Center renovation project scheduled to be completed this summer, including the completely refreshed Montgomery County Welcome Center.
The park welcomes more than two million visitors each year, with at least 250,000 visiting inside the Visitor Center, and contributes more than $30 million in positive economic impact.
Tallman also released some results from this year’s virtual Revolutionary 5-Mile Run, which raises money for the park: more than 640 registrants, and participants from 24 states and four countries.
Read more about the VFTCB’s National Travel & Tourism Week’s “Power Of Travel.”