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Lehigh Valley Tourism is Strong, and Getting Stronger

By Colin McEvoy on June 11, 2015

Discover Lehigh Valley President Michael Stershic speaking at the 5th Annual Tourism Marketing Day at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel.

Discover Lehigh Valley President Michael Stershic speaking at the 5th Annual Tourism Marketing Day at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel.

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

Visitors spent $1.9 billion in the Lehigh Valley in 2013, according to Michael Stershic, president of Discover Lehigh Valley. Fifty-seven percent of visitors rated their experience 9 out of 10 or higher (compared to a 47 percent average nationally), and 79 percent said they planned to come back again.

“Visitors are having a great experience when they visit the Lehigh Valley, that’s the bottom line,” Stershic said. “Some visitors don’t know what to expect when they get here, but once they’re here and once they discover what’s in the Lehigh Valley, they’re surprised and delighted, and want to return for more.”

Stershic delivered this good news to a crowd of about 150 people at the 5th Annual Tourism Marketing Day organized by Discover Lehigh Valley, the region’s tourism promotion agency. It was held June 11 at the Renaissance Allentown Hotel, located in the heart of the city’s ongoing downtown revitalization.

The $1.9 billion in tourism spending in the Lehigh Valley generated $199.3 million in federal tax revenue and $195.9 million in state and local taxes, Stershic said. It supported at least 22,500 jobs, which generated a payroll of $881.3 million.

“It’s estimated that every household in Pennsylvania would pay an additional $848 in taxes if there was no tourism industry in Pennsylvania,” Stershic said. “So that’s a significant chunk of change that’s being saved by the tourism industry.”

Stershic serves on the board of directors for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, and LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham sits on Discover Lehigh Valley’s board.

The Tourism Marketing Day included speakers discussing various topics affecting the tourism industry, such as content marketing, public relations tools, social media strategies, and communication best practices. It also included a keynote presentation by Ramona Hollie-Major, CEO of The Emergency Leadership Advantage (TELA), a leadership and personal development group.

The event also included “30 in 30,” in which attendees each had 60 seconds to share a marketing success or failure with the group; a “Shark Tank”-like event featuring a panel of potential investors considering offers from aspiring entrepreneurs seeking business investments; and a discussion of Discover Lehigh Valley’s 2015-16 sales and marketing plan.

Among the data Stershic present was how visitors spend once they reach the Lehigh Valley: 27 percent on transportation, 21 percent on food and beverage, 10 percent on lodging, 17 percent on shopping, and 26 percent on recreation. That’s the highest percentage of spending on recreation in Pennsylvania; the Poconos are second in the state at 19 percent.

In the three decades since Discover Lehigh Valley was founded, the Lehigh Valley’s share of Pennsylvania visitor spending has grown from 2.46 percent to 4.86 percent, Stershic said. Fifty-nine percent of Lehigh Valley tourists visited the region four or more times in the last two years, while 45 percent visited six or more times in that period.

“That’s pretty good repeat business,” Stershic said.

Dutch Springs, a Lower Nazareth Township-based inland SCUBA diver’s amusement park, won the Shark Tank challenge and was awarded a $5,000 marketing package. It beat out two other competitors, who had 10 minutes to make their pitches to judges Gwen Shields of Altitude Marketing, Nathan Linder of Adams Outdoor Advertising, and Wayne Barz, manager of entrepreneurial services at Ben Franklin TechVentures.

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