Discover Lehigh Valley Hosts Tourism Perspectives & Insights Event
By Colin McEvoy on May 6, 2022
Discover Lehigh Valley celebrated National Travel & Tourism Week by highlighting some key data, travel trends, and tourism initiatives in the Lehigh Valley, as well as a panel of regional representatives in workforce development, transportation, attractions, and outdoor assets.
The organization hosted its Lehigh Valley Tourism Perspectives & Insights on May 5 at the newly renovated Delta By Marriott hotel in Upper Macungie Township.
“At Discover Lehigh Valley we build the region’s economy and image through destination marketing that increases the number of leisure and business travelers, the number of nights they stay, and the things they do across Lehigh and Northampton counties,” said Alicia Quinn, Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Alliances with Discover Lehigh Valley. “These marketing efforts enhance the quality of life and sense of hometown pride for all of our local residents.”
Hotel performance and revenue continue to progress forward over pre-pandemic numbers, according to Discover Lehigh Valley. In the recent Smith Travel Research report for March 2022, hotel occupancy for the region closed out at 71.6%, compared to 64.1% in 2021 and 70.6% in 2019.
The tourism and hospitality industry supports 26,500 jobs in the region, and the region has 6,538 hotel rooms on a nightly basis, according to Bree Nidds, Vice President of Sales for Discover Lehigh Valley. 81% of the region’s overnight travelers are repeat visitors, she said.
“That means we must have been doing something right during that first visit, and they came back and stayed with us again,” Nidds said.
Hotel Average Daily Rate (ADR) across the region was up $27 over that of 2021 and about $7 over 2019, Quinn said. That translates to revenue being up 17.1% over pre-pandemic numbers from March 2019.
The panel discussion featured Darren Betters, Director of Business Development at Lehigh Valley International Airport; Kassie Hilgert, President & CEO of ArtsQuest; Denise Maiatico, Vice President of Lehigh Valley Properties at Meyer Jabara Hotels; Louis Mazzante, President of Valley Mountain Bikers; and Mike McCreary, Owner of Lehigh Valley Grand Prix.
Mazzante noted that outdoor recreation saw a large boost starting in 2020 due to the pandemic, and that trend has remained upward even as the COVID-19 crisis has started to wane. Cycling participation and bike sales alone have increased by 200% across the nation.
“It’s really hard to go find a bike right now if you wanted to buy one,” he said. “Our bike paths are filled with people, which is really fantastic, but challenging as well. It speaks to the amazing resources and infrastructure that we have here in the Lehigh Valley and people’s interest in it as well.’
Although the entertainment industry was hit hard by COVID-19, Hilgert said ArtsQuest is back to offering a full slate of shows and entertainment options in the year 2022. She said the pandemic has changed purchasing habits for customers, with tickets for shows no longer selling out as quickly in advance as they once did.
Betters discussed ongoing projects at the Lehigh Valley International Airport, including a reconstruction of the major runway, and the renovation of its terminal station. He noted that there is a greater emphasis on excellent air purification as a result of the pandemic.
While many destinations have an off-season, Nidds said that visitation in the Lehigh Valley has remained consistent across all months of the year: “It’s almost like we had an endless fall in the Lehigh Valley; people just didn’t want to leave, they wanted to keep visiting.”
She also noted several tourism and travel trends, including the importance of mobility and flexibility, an increased importance on memorable experiences during travel, a “locals first” approach to tourism, and trips being booked 30 days or less in advance.
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