Valley Forge Tourism Provides Optimistic State-of-the-Industry Report to County Commissioners
Staff professionals from the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) presented an optimistic tourism update as part of their annual report to the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners.
Mike Bowman, VFTCB President & CEO, and his colleagues cited the positive economic impact of hospitality in 2022. Data indicating recovery and growth came from sources that included:
- Record sports numbers
- Focus on smaller corporate life science meetings
- The return of events celebrating the promotion of:
- Breweries, wineries, and distilleries collected under the VFTCB brand Montco Makers
- Jazz and theater
Visitor spending generated $1.4 billion in 2021 — a performance rate 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,” explained Bowman. “We’re using insights and consumer behavior to make data-driven decisions to keep things fresh and creative.”
Recovery of Leisure Travel
Montco saw the recovery of leisure travel in 2022, reflective of a nationwide trend.
Destination Analysts, a San Francisco tourism market research firm, reported that 80 percent of American travelers are optimistic about travel — especially road trips. Specifically, 79 percent of survey respondents reported already scheduling a trip for the year.
The accent on road trips bodes especially well for the VFTCB. Its home turf of Montgomery County is within a day’s drive to nearly half a million people.
Despite the bounce back, however, inflation and a potential recession still loom as possible spoilers locally and nationally.
In 2023, Montco’s hotel room revenue is expected to reach a record high at $269 million, a potential nine percent increase from 2022, according to the tourism update. 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 percent 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.
The new inventory includes the Elstowe Manor at Elkins Estate, expected to debut in 2023. The funding behind its repurposing is part of the total $250 million in hotel spending countywide for new construction and renovations, said Scott Higgins, VFTCB Director of Sales.
Coming off a record year with $65 million in economic impact, the Valley Forge sports sales team has already confirmed new tournaments for $11 million, another robust source of room nights.
The VFTCB team will therefore continue its strong focus on inclusive sports events.
As well, the marketing of Montgomery County as a meetings destination is also seen as key.
The tourism board’s staff will focus in 2023 on bringing more midweek meetings to the county, bolstered by its “Rooms” campaign. That marketing message is designed to attract business in the life sciences sector, which made up 63 percent of corporate bookings in 2022, thanks partly to Montco’s large pharmaceutical presence, Higgins said.
The VFTCB’s 2023 plans also include a “Women in Jazz” theme for its annual Arts Montco Week in Sept. Rachel Riley, VFTCB Associate Vice President of Communications, announced plans to leverage the successful 2022 performances of musicians such as the University of Pennsylvania vocal teacher Joanna Pascale and guitarist (and Ambler native) Jacob Kelberman.
The VFTCB will also be expanding its three Arts Montco walls — public installations of locally created pieces — to include outdoor murals for the first time.
The third annual Crave Montco month — the only month-long dining and restaurant promotion in the region — will also return in July. Its primary function is to drive traffic to restaurants and “Montco Makers” during a typically slower month. Concurrently, the event seeks to educate consumers about the county’s eclectic culinary scene, said Riley.
Underlying all these efforts, according to Justine Garbarino, VFTCB Associate V.P. of Marketing, is a continued brand messaging that an escape to Montco is easy, affordable, and family friendly. The VFTCB intends to continue disseminating that reminder through various channels (including TikTok) to audiences in Philadelphia, New York, D.C., and Baltimore, Garbarino concluded in the tourism update.
For those perhaps unfamiliar with the VFTCB brand “Montco Makers,” this video provides clarity.
Stay Connected, Stay Informed
Subscribe for great stories in your community!
"*" indicates required fields