• Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation
  • Serving Cumberland County
  • Pennsylvania’s destination for business and leisure
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Bowser: Tourism remains critical to success

When most people think about tourism, they rightfully internalize it to think about their own summer vacations or perhaps they see it with the increased traffic when the Carlisle Car Shows are in town. Tourism is very hard to quantify because it impacts a variety of industries and it’s difficult to separate resident spending from visitor spending. Tourism makes impacts on the food and beverage industry, recreational assets, retail, lodging, air transportation and non-air transportation. According to the Commonwealth’s 2014 Tourism Report, visitor spending accounted for $39 billion in our state economy.

The majority of those dollars are spent on transportation, followed by food & beverage and recreation, to round out the top three. According to the report, approximately 15% of the tourism industry in the Commonwealth is a result of business travel and the remaining 85% is derived from leisure travel. This market share breakdown is comprised of approximately 192 million annual visitors.

Cumberland County’s tourism industry is diverse and supported by a higher than state average business travel market. In Cumberland County, business travel accounts for 44% of the market share with 56% leisure. Due to Cumberland County’s nice mix of visitors that are coming for various reasons, residents don’t easily see it as compared to destinations that are heavily reliant on one key attraction that might result in conference or vacation visitation.

As CAEDC looks to the future, we want to continue to nurture our diversity and grow our tourism economy. A few weeks ago, CAEDC announced the recommendations of a Destination Sales Study. The focus of the plan was to provide CAEDC with strategies on how additional capital and product investment might fuel growth in our tourism economy.

In the past three years, we have seen seven national chain hotels open increasing the number of hotel rooms that are available to our visitors. These new hotels, and the additional rooms, are a result of increased business and leisure travel demands. Relocating companies like Volvo or Deloitte have spurred new hotel construction to meet their business demands. As our attractions continue to expand, like the US Army Heritage and Education Center or Allenberry Resort, leisure visitation increases and they are also filling those new hotel rooms.

In 2014, Cumberland Valley supported over 1.8 million overnight visitors, resulting in $760 million in visitor spending. Moving forward, CAEDC can fast track additional visitors and visitor spending by:

Focusing on Soft Product Development. Soft Product Development is taking existing products (events, attractions, etc.) and linking them together to create a larger experience.

Focusing on Asset Development. Asset Development could involve the creation of new tourism-related assets like a sports complex, conference center, attraction or unique dining and shopping.

Continuing to focus on selling the destination to Small Meetings and Conferences and Youth Sports.

Focusing on downtown revitalization efforts. Examples could include unique dining and retail destinations, walkable and bike friendly downtowns, streetscape and community design, signage and small business development.

In 2017, our destination sales focus will be to support the increase of our meeting and conference space capacity so that we are able to accommodate growing demands. We will also evaluate the feasibility of how we might grow recreational tourism for Cumberland Valley with the addition of a multi-purpose sports complex.

This column was written for the Cumberland Valley Business Journal and can be found here.

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