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New Tourism Partnership Brings Promising Future

By Rob Fulton,
President, Pennsylvania Association of Travel & Tourism

Tourism is critical to the economic well-being of Pennsylvania.  The industry is broad-based and far-reaching.  It is hotels, meeting facilities, attractions, cultural institutions, recreation and much more. The tourism industry impacts restaurants, transportation, retail, agriculture and manufacturing.  Tourism, like other industries in the Commonwealth, is impacted by the economy, increased competition for fewer consumer dollars and budget cuts at the state and local levels.  In response to these challenges, a new public-private partnership has been formed to leverage industry knowledge and funding sources to reinvigorate tourism marketing and promotion.

Without tourism, every Pennsylvania household would have to pay $770 in additional state and local taxes to replace the tax revenues the industry generates each year.  Data from 2011 shows the economic impact of tourism in Pennsylvania is significant.

  • Total visitor spending was $37.2 billion
  • State and local tax revenue was $3.8 billion
  • Directly represented $14.0 billion of state GDP
  • 182 million U.S. domestic visitors, 2 million Canadians and 1 million visitors from overseas
  • Supported more than 460,000 jobs, with almost 300,000 jobs directly attributed to PA Tourism

Marketing tourism throughout Pennsylvania has historically been led by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office, located within the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).  For the last two years, there has been renewed discussion surrounding a structure that enables the public and private sectors to collectively drive the future of Pennsylvania’s tourism efforts.

During the same time, the Tourism industry was also moving toward a collaborative voice focused on advocacy, education, professional development and building strong legislative relationships.  The formation of the Pennsylvania Association of Travel & Tourism (PATT) in 2012 was intended to unify and lead Pennsylvania’s travel and tourism industry, presenting one voice on public policy while serving the needs of its diverse members.   Working together, the industry believes it will have greater control of its own destiny ,giving tourism organizations, associations and their members an unprecedented voice in the process of developing statewide tourism issues. 

The newly created Pennsylvania Tourism Partnership (PTP) is intended to enhance and strengthen tourism marketing efforts by both developing a long-term state tourism marketing plan and by engaging the public and private sectors to create a sustainable funding source to support the priorities outlined in the plan.

This collaborative effort includes the Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED), the Governor’s Office, the Pennsylvania Association of Travel & Tourism (PATT) and Team Pennsylvania Foundation (TEAM PA).   Working together, DCED’s Tourism Office and the PTP will develop consistent branding, promotion and marketing of Pennsylvania as a premier tourism destination. 

The PTP will exist within Team PA for up to three years during the start-up phase, operating under its 501(c)3 charter.  A Project Director, hired in August, will work with a Steering Committee to further develop the PTP.  The Steering Committee will be comprised of business and industry professionals, representatives from key government agencies and industry-related organizations from across the Commonwealth. The industry will nominate individuals to sit on the Steering Committee for the Governor’s Office and DCED to review and approve.   Efforts to form the Steering Committee are just beginning, with a goal of having the committee established by the end of the year.

Initially, the PTP is being funded with operational seed money from DCED.  These funds are primarily used by Team PA for the Project Director and other operating expenses the first year.  Additional funds will come from a combination of private sector contributions and pledges, which will be matched with funds from DCED.  For FY 2013-14, DCED will provide the PTP with up to $1 million in matching funds on a 1-to-1 basis.  The PTP will also work toward establishing a long term, sustainable source of funding for PA Tourism marketing and promotion.

After nearly 25 years of the Tourism industry exploring this collaborative approach to Tourism marketing, Pennsylvania is on the verge of making this historic partnership a reality.  Under a partnership, the Commonwealth’s Tourism brand and marketing initiatives will be better insulated from political change, providing for more continuity. Responsibility will be placed on the Tourism industry to support this partnership with its participation and financial support, resulting in increased opportunities for input and buy-in from the private sector.

Tourism is a competitive business. Pennsylvania is competing with every other state throughout the country, some of which are investing upwards of $25 million on marketing, compared to Pennsylvania’s few million. We also compete with international markets for meetings, conventions, sporting events and visitors. The current economy demands a re-evaluation of how Pennsylvania markets and promotes its assets.

Greater alignment across the Tourism industry through PATT and stronger collaboration with state government through the PTP will better position the Commonwealth to capitalize on increased economic opportunities relating to Tourism in Pennsylvania.  This translates into more revenue and jobs, which is good for everyone.

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