January 30, 2015 by Jan Murphy - LINK

Hersheypark and other area tourist attractions helped to boost traveler spending in the nine-county southcentral Pennsylvania region to record levels in 2013. (File photo/Pennlive)

Thanks to Hersheypark, the Gettysburg battlefield, Lancaster's Amish country and other area tourist attractions, this part of the state became the most popular region of the state where tourists spend their money behind only Philadelphia and its surrounding counties in 2013. 

A record $7.8 billion was spent by travelers on travel-related purchases in the nine-county southcentral Pennsylvania region that year - accounting for 20.1 percent of all tourist spending in Pa., according to a report released by Tourism Economics, a Delaware County consulting firm. In Philadelphia and the surrounding region, travelers spent more than $8.9 billion in 2013.

A breakdown in "The Economic Impact of Tourism in Pennsylvania" report shows how much of that was spent in each midstate county that makes up the region identified in the report as Dutch Country Roads. 

  • Adams: $671.3 million
  • Berks: $807.3 million
  • Cumberland: $759.6 million
  • Dauphin: $2.28 billion
  • Franklin: $323 million
  • Lancaster: $1.85 billion
  • Lebanon: $194.1 million
  • Perry: $46.9 million
  • York: $907.3 million 

That overall figure for the region represents a 2.6 percent increase from the prior year and for residents of the area, that is great news, said Rick Dunlap, public relations director for the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau. 

"Tourism is a very positive thing for an area because you are bringing in outside money," he said, "instead of just relying on your own economy to move the money around." 

It also means jobs for locals. The report indicates traveler-related businesses employed 27,013 people in 2013, which is up nearly 1 percent from the prior year. And it is a revenue source for state and local governments, generating $252 million that year, which is up over 3 percent from 2012.

But folks who live in this region might overlook some of the amenities that we have within an hour or two's drive from home in this region that might not otherwise be there if it weren't for this being a thriving tourist area, Dunlap added. 

All the theaters, the Giant center, and the region's many restaurants in a community of this size couldn't be sustained if it weren't a hub for tourism and business travel, he said. 

"A lot of time, people don't see the benefits of tourism and it's right in front of your face everyday here," he said. "These reports are very important to explaining that. 

Statewide, the report shows visitor spending also hit a record high $39.2 billion, which is an increase of 2 percent over 2012. The number of visitors edged close to 193 million with the largest segment of the travelers being day-trip visitors. 

The tourism industry provided 204,155 jobs in the state, which put another way that is one out of every 15.3 employees in the state was supported by travel and tourism. Additionally, tourism generated over $4 billion in state and local taxes.