VFTCB Looks Ahead to 2021, Recaps 2020
Updated: Jan 15
VFTCB Looks Ahead to 2021, Recaps 2020
As the Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board (VFTCB) strategizes ways to reinvigorate the hospitality industry – and stimulate economic impact and jobs for Montgomery County, PA in 2021 – the organization’s staff is also looking back at what was accomplished in 2020, despite challenges due to COVID-19.
“Last year tested and humbled us in ways we couldn’t possibly imagine,” said Mike Bowman, President & CEO of the VFTCB. “Our industry has been bent, yes, but not broken. And, it will bounce back. History tends to repeat itself, and bad times are almost always followed by good ones. Much like the Roaring Twenties a century ago, people will need to socialize. They’re going to want to celebrate. The only way forward is to come together, and rise above. To advocate for our members, partners, and community as best we can to benefit the entire region. We believe in our destination, and we’re not giving up.”
That’s why the VFTCB’s brand-new tagline as part of its 2021 Relaunch Plan is #MakeItHappen, reflecting not just what the team plans to do this year, but also an encouraging invitation to both leisure and business visitors, who may have missed out on activities last year.
Using data-driven and quarterly objectives, the keys for the VFTCB will be:
· Supporting hotels by selling Montco differently using virtual tours through Montco 360, providing tools to planners to confidently host events here with Montco Wellness for Events, and revamping the #MakeItMontco Hotel Experience.
o Two new hotels opening: the Residence Inn Bala Cynwyd is targeting February, and the Element King of Prussia in March. That brings the county total to 81 properties with 9,400 rooms.
· Focusing on Valley Forge Sports events, which have proven to be recession-proof. While room nights for this market segment decreased 40% from 64,000 in 2019 to 35,000 in 2020, many sports facilities were still able to host tournaments, including 10 new ones.
· Spotlighting social gatherings like reunions and weddings. In 2019, 4,200 Montco Weddings were held for $168.7 million in economic impact. More than 50% of weddings rescheduled in 2020, so a 35% surge is expected in 2021.
· Highlighting Valley Forge National Historical Park’s renovated Visitor Center, expected to reopen by the summer.
· Utilizing events like potential festivals (possibly virtual) to push Arts Montco cultural venues, and Crave Montco promotional events to support 1,600 restaurants/30-plus award-winning Montco Makers (breweries, wineries, and distilleries).
· Continuing to back small, local businesses impacted by coronavirus with the Make It Main Street initiative.
· Summer/fall marketing campaigns targeting families, and concentrating on the area’s strengths, outdoor suburban space, history, etc.
To fully understand the impact of the public health pandemic in 2020, the VFTCB compared the year to 2019.
Tourism is normally a key economic driver in Montco, contributing $1.65 billion in positive impact, and more than 25-30,000 jobs (more than 4% of jobs in county). In 2020, that was down 50%, an $800 million loss, and jobs also decreased 50% (the largest of any industry), a $150 million personal income loss.
Over the past decade, Montco’s regional share of the tourism segment had been growing with hotel sector KPIs – occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR – all increasing significantly. The VFTCB and county hospitality industry were set for another record-breaking year in 2020 pre-COVID. Instead, more than $106 million was lost in hotel revenue as compared to $250 million and two million room nights booked across the county in 2019. Year-over-year, hotel occupancy also went down 40% from 66% to 39.4%. ADR declined 19% to $95, and RevPAR was also down 52% at $37. More than 120 VFTCB events canceled in 2020, a loss of 46,000 room nights and $4.5 million vs. 136,000 booked by the organization alone in 2019.
Montgomery County is still a leading county for employment in life sciences, healthcare, financial services, and manufacturing, according to David Zellers, Jr., Director of Commerce.
Some other positive signs from VFTCB’s 2020 recap:
· #MontCoStrong t-shirt fundraiser raised $25,000 for county COVID fund
· Launched digital routes through Bike Montco
· Record numbers at 50 historic and top-ranked golf courses (18,000 MontcoGolf.com
pageviews and more than 1,200 GolfNow tee-time booking requests), dozens of parks, and 100 miles of trails
· Sixth Annual Valley Forge Freedom from Hunger Food Drive collected almost $5,000, equivalent of more than 20,000 pounds of food (and 45,000 to date)
· More than 7 million impressions for the #MakeItMontco Hotel Package through summer TripAdvisor partnership
· Website: more than 622,000 visits, and addition of LiveChat
· Organization won more than 20 awards including multiple marketing and creative awards for Access Montco
· Social media: 161,779 followers (growth of more than 4,000), 1.6 million video views (more than 5.6 million to date), and 3 million individuals reached
o Recognized “Hotel Hero” hospitality employees who’ve gone above and beyond during the pandemic
· Public relations: Almost 500 articles, exposure of 313 million (almost 4,000 and 613 million to date)
· Revamped the VFTCB membership program to three-tiered, and monthly orientation sessions with virtual/guest speakers