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Tourism Rebounding in Montgomery County

17 Nov, 2021


Even after almost two years of turmoil and crisis, throughout 2020-2021 tourism has still provided positive economic impact that has resonated across the entire Montgomery County community, the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) released in an annual report to members and partners.

Despite continued ups and downs from the pandemic, the Montco hospitality industry results saw steady improvements over 2020, with numbers in 2021 starting to make a slow climb back to 2019 levels – which had increased to record growth at that time, according to Tourism Economics.

Visitor spending still reached $973 million in 2020, supporting more than 14,500 jobs. That’s a 40% decline from $1.65 billion in 2019, and an 18% loss in tourism-supported jobs. More than 1.3 million hotel rooms were booked in Montco as compared to 2.1 million in 2019 (a 37% decrease). And, the 50% hotel room revenue decline – from $250 million to $125 million – is still lower than the overall 60% decrease throughout the rest of the Philadelphia region.

While international travel isn’t expected to reach 2019 levels until 2024, Valley Forge Sports business is anticipated to rise 7% over 2019 numbers by the end of this year. That’s a record high for the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB), and a 50% increase over 2020 – making it the most productive year for sports in the history of the organization.

“There have definitely been some tough moments over the last 18 months or so,” said Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB. “From the Delta variant to damage from storms, flooding, and even tornadoes…you name it, it feels like it’s happened here in Montgomery County. But, we’ve been meeting those challenges together with the help and support of our county, members, and partners. We’re trying to take the good with the bad, and we feel pretty good about the energy flowing in the suburbs right now. Our restaurant business has been through the roof. Visitation to our attractions has been up. Our sales team has been traveling again. We may not be back to where we were in 2019, but we’re much better off than we were last year. We’ve found reasons to have hope for a brighter future.”

From volleyball and lacrosse to paintball and flag football, sports represented 77% of group business for the VFTCB with more than 50 events hosted (16 new), 45,000 room nights, and more than $40 million economic impact. Some more sports highlights:

  • NXL Paintball brought their Mid Atlantic Major (new event) to Limerick Township, producing 2,400 total room nights, and $3 million in economic impact.
  • A.fatti Pro Breaking Tour Philly Open (breakdancing) hosted a new event for the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center with a plan to return and expand in 2022.
  • Spikeball Roundnet Nationals 2021, another new event at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, provided a unique use of the fields with circular spikeball courts.

“Sports have definitely been a positive, silver lining through these challenging times,” said Lisa Karl, Vice President of Sales & Strategic Partnerships. “This reflects our positive sales team approach. Everyone stepped up with persistence and determination. But, this milestone is also a result of years of strategically spending more time, effort, and resources to build a foundation that enhances our competitive edge over other destinations by strengthening partnerships with our facilities, lead generators, and relationships with our towns and county to work together to bring as many sporting events to Montco as possible.”

At least two other VFTCB first-time initiatives also proved successful in promoting and supporting two of the segments hardest hit by COVID in an already heavily impacted tourism industry: restaurants/Montco Makers (representing more than 1,850 restaurants, breweries, wineries, and distilleries in the county) and the arts (representing more than 200 venues).

The food and beverage industry accounts for 22,500 employees – 4% of employment – in the county, the third highest in the state with more than 11% expected growth between 2018-2028, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor. The VFTCB’s first-ever Crave Montco Month had more than 100 restaurants and Montco Makers participants with: 4,000 website clicks, more than 200,000 social media impressions, and 96 press hits with more than 390 million in reach thanks to PR partners, En Route.

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