The HHRVB has fueled this economic engine for a decade.
Tourism is like oxygen to this community. It surrounds us. It supports us. It’s critical to our survival. Yet it’s so prevalent we often forget it exists. The impact of this industry is ingrained in every aspect of our community. We all know someone who relies on a job supported by tourism and we all enjoy the resources, entertainment and amenities afforded to us because of it.
For those living in the Hershey and Harrisburg Region, your quality of life is tethered to tourism.
For those who champion the importance of tourism, the challenge is extracting the impact of the industry from the ether of our daily lives. The true nature of how tourism enhances our world is so cleverly disguised it easily goes unnoticed. Yet tourism is running behind the scenes like an operating system at the core of our economy.
So imagine taking away tourism for even a day. What does life look like?
No Farm Show Complex or Giant Center. City Island & Second Street sit empty. No Riverboat, roller coasters or restaurants. No theatres or theme park. No markets or museums. No concerts or casino. No fairs or festivals. No galleries or gardens. No wineries, breweries or bars. No hotels, motels or B&Bs. No fun.
Our quality of life breaks down immediately, followed by our economy.
Overnight 30,000 residents lose their jobs and $1 billion in wages evaporate from the local income base. The state and local governments cut $252 million in human services to balance budgets from lost tax revenues. Businesses shut down and storefronts shutter. Property values plummet while prices for local products and services skyrocket. The mass exodus of young talent and entrepreneurs lead the local developers, investors, restauranteurs and business owners out of town like Pied Pipers.
This is life without tourism.
Thankfully, that isn’t life in the Hershey Harrisburg Region. But much of what makes this region a great place to live, work and play is only sustainable because 10 million people, roughly twenty-times the local population, decide to visit our hometown every year for business and pleasure and leave behind $2.33 billion. Only three other regions in Pennsylvania claim to capture more money from tourism – Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and the Poconos.
The reality of how interdependent a healthy economy is to a vibrant tourism industry is why the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau was created a decade ago to ensure this economic engine continues to be fueled and fine-tuned.
Since April 2006, the HHRVB has functioned primarily as the collective sales leader and destination brand marketer for the region’s tourism industry. Today the official Destination Marketing Organization represents 500 lodging partners, meeting and convention service providers, and attractions in Dauphin and Perry counties.
“Our meetings, convention, and event sales efforts have the largest direct impact on the local economy of everything we do,” said Mary Smith, President & CEO of the HHRVB. “Yet sales is likely the least recognized service we provide, unless you’re a partner of the bureau who participates in our Sales Leads Program.”
According to Smith the bureau’s sales force attended 40 industry trade shows last year, generating 600 qualified leads for local businesses who cater to meeting & event planners, group tour operators, military reunion groups, student youth or religious organizations, and sports & events planners.
The bureau also recruits and retains large events each year such as the Great American Outdoor Show, Mecum Auctions, LEGO KidsFest, The Color Run, Reflections Synchro Skating Invitational, and 11 PIAA tournaments.
In 2015 the bureau reported sales efforts resulted in 85,000 hotel room-nights and their Top 25 client events alone attracted 1 million visitors and generated $275 million for the local economy.
Smith emphasizes those numbers are just the result of sales and that the bureau also invests approximately $1.2 million annually in Brand Marketing, Advertising & Communications to attract leisure travelers from surrounding markets that include New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.
HHRVB leads economic growth for this region through destination marketing and tourism development.
This article first appeared in TheBurg Magazine - April 2016 issue.
ABOUT THE HERSHEY HARRISBURG REGIONAL VISITORS BUREAU
The HHRVB is the official non-profit partnership-based Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) leading economic growth for Pennsylvania’s Hershey & Harrisburg Region through destination marketing and tourism development. The organization, accredited by Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) since 2010, is committed to actively marketing the tourism assets in Dauphin & Perry County to business and leisure travelers both domestic & international. The bureau also leads regional sales efforts to attract meeting & event organizers, sporting event producers, and group tour leaders. For more information go to VisitHersheyHarrisburg.org or call 877-727-8573. Media can use #HHRVB and #HHRVB4Media when tagging stories and social media posts related to the region.