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Discover Lehigh Valley Highlights Great Year in Regional Tourism

By Colin McEvoy on November 20, 2017

The Discover Lehigh Valley held their 2017 annual meeting at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel.

The Discover Lehigh Valley held their 2017 annual meeting at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel.

Visitors to the Lehigh Valley are spending more than $2.1 billion in the region, and supporting more than 23,500 jobs, according to Discover Lehigh Valley.

“It’s a great time to be involved in tourism here in the Lehigh Valley,” said Discover Lehigh Valley President Michael Stershic. “We continue to grow at a rate faster than the rest of the state. The depth and quality of what we have to offer visitors grows with each passing moment and the numbers reflect it.”

Stershic gave an overview of the Lehigh Valley’s year in tourism during the organization’s 2017 annual meeting, which was held Nov. 15 at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel in Allentown.

The Lehigh Valley generates more than 5.2 percent of Pennsylvania’s total visitor spending today, Stershic said, compared to 2.46 percent when Discover Lehigh Valley was first formed 33 years ago.

The region boasts the second highest percentage growth rate among all tourism regions in Pennsylvania (6.7 percent), and by far the highest percentage of spending on recreation at 26.9 percent, compared to the second-highest amount at 20 percent.

For the 12-month period ending June 30, the Lehigh Valley’s hotel occupancy rate was 71.3 percent, compared with 68.9 percent the previous year. During that year, 1.54 million room nights were sold, a 3.7 percent increase over the prior year’s 1.49 million.

“Think of it this way: that’s means that on any given night we have more than 4,200 people staying with us,” Stershic said. “That’s about the population of Slatington, or one and a half times the population of Macungie, staying in our hotel rooms.”

However, Stershic noted that Pennsylvania is losing market share. New York invests more than 15 times what Pennsylvania invests in tourism marketing. He urged attendees to inform their state legislators that investments in tourism result in strong returns.

“Remind them that for every dollar that they cut the tourism marketing budget, they lost $3.43 in tax revenue,” he said.

The Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem won Discover Lehigh Valley’s 2017 Tourism Award. Pictured above is Discover Lehigh Valley President Michael Stershic and Kari Cenni, President and CEO of NMIH. (courtesy photo)

The Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem won Discover Lehigh Valley’s 2017 Tourism Award. Pictured above is Discover Lehigh Valley President Michael Stershic and Kari Cenni, President and CEO of NMIH. (courtesy photo)

The National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem was awarded Discover Lehigh Valley’s 2017 Tourism Award during the annual meeting. It is presented annually to an organization that makes a significant investment in a tourism attraction or infrastructure.

“Beautifully designed, full-scale machinery, enthusiastic docents, and fascinating tales of the steel, textile, and other industries, together with changing exhibits, have made NMIH a welcome addition to Lehigh Valley’s inventory of fascinating places to visit,” Stershic said.

Discover Lehigh Valley ended the 2017 fiscal year with $2.87 billion in revenues, a $107,272 surplus over expenses. The organization held four events last year, attended three trade shows and two education conferences, held one-on-one meeting with 75 meeting planners, and participated in networking with more than 2,500 industry professionals.

In total, the organization increased awareness of the Lehigh Valley to 2,600 connections, according to Alicia Quinn, Discover Lehigh Valley Strategic Brand Manager. It also increased its number of RFPs to 48 and booked 19 RFPs, resulting in $266,555 of economic impact, 1,800 room nights, and 3,032 attendees.

Discover Lehigh Valley also discussed its new “Lift Your Spirits” marketing campaign, which called upon visitors to craft their own memories while enjoying the beauty and wonders of the Lehigh Valley. This included ads online, in billboards, in publications like Lehigh Valley Style, and at the Lehigh Valley International Airport.

The Lehigh Valley tourism industry also drew positive media attention in such publications as The Washington Post, USA Today, The Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Business Journal, The Sentinel, and NBC 10 News, according to Quinn.

Don Cunningham, President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), sits on the Discover Lehigh Valley Board of Directors.

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