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Discover Lehigh Valley Announces Record-Breaking Year for Tourism

By Colin McEvoy on October 30, 2015

Discover Lehigh Valley President Michael Stershic speaking at the organization's annual meeting.

Discover Lehigh Valley President Michael Stershic speaking at the organization’s annual meeting.

More and more people are visiting the Lehigh Valley, and they’re liking what they see.

According to Discover Lehigh Valley, the region’s tourism promotion agency, 59 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s visitors have visited four or more times in the last two years, and 45 percent have been here six or more times in that time.

Even better news: 57 percent of visitors rated their experience a 9 out of 10 or higher, compared to a national average of 47 percent. And 79 percent said they would be very likely to make a return trip, compared to 62 percent nationally.

That was among the news delivered by Michael Stershic, president of Discover Lehigh Valley, during the organization’s annual meeting on Nov. 29. About 130 people were in attendance at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center.

“There’s only one word that can be used to describe the 2014-15 fiscal year, and that’s ‘Wow,’” Stershic said. “It was one for the record books.”

More than 1.4 million hotel room nights were sold, an all-time record, and Discover Lehigh Valley received more than $2.1 million in hotel tax revenue, Stershic said, citing a study by North Star Destination Strategies, which evaluated the organization’s effectiveness in marketing Lehigh Valley as a destination.

“Visitors are having great experiences when they come to Lehigh Valley,” Stershic said. “Visitors aren’t always sure of what to expect when they visit, but once they discover what’s here, they’re surprised and delighted, and come back for more.”

The study also found revenue from partner dues and advertising programs also achieved record levels, Stershic said. Travel and tourism generated almost $2 billion in local revenue for the Lehigh Valley, provided $395 million in tax revenue for federal, state, and local governments, and is responsible for 22,500 jobs with earnings approaching $881 million.

Discover Lehigh Valley presented three awards: the Partnership Award, which recognizes an organization that has had a productive partnership with the organization; the Zenith Award, which goes to the group that brings the largest meeting to the Lehigh Valley; and the Tourism Award, which recognized a significant investment in tourism infrastructure.

The Partnership Award went to ArtsQuest, Lehigh Valley United, and Lehigh Mining & Navigation, for their organization of soccer viewing parties at Bethlehem’s ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks. The Zenith Award was given to Laxfest, a lacrosse tournament that has grown from 56 teams in 2006 to 311 teams this year, drawing almost 7,800 players and thousands of parents.

The Tourism Award was presented to the Bethlehem Redevelopment Authority for the construction of the Hoover-Mason Trestle at the ArtsQuest Center. Once an elevated railroad to carry limestone and iron ore to the blast furnaces, it is now a public walkway standing 46 feet tall and 2,000 feet long, connecting the ArtsQuest and Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem campuses.

“If you’ve not been on it, you need to go,” Stershic said. “It’s an awesome experience. It’s the quintessential show-and-tell of the Bethlehem Steel story.”

Discover Lehigh Valley also honored its board of directors during the annual meeting, particularly Kurt Landes of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, who was board chairman from 2013 to 2015. A keynote speech was delivered by Meridith Elliott Powell, a business growth speaker.

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