PA Severely Lacks Necessary Resources to Grow Tourism
By Chris Barrett, President and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau
Pennsylvania is a hidden gem for tourism. While the state offers rich history, scenic four seasons, resorts and attractions, we struggle to effectively market our assets due to our severe lack of tourism funding.
Every one of our surrounding states can present a substantial marketing war chest. After earmarks, Pennsylvania’s current tourism budget available for statewide marketing is just $2 million. New York competes against us with a tourism budget of $37 million, Maryland with $12 million, New Jersey with $9 million and Ohio with $8 million. Given our current budget, we aren’t even on the playing field. We aren’t even in the stadium watching the game.
Not that long ago, Pennsylvania was a strong regional and national competitor for the tourism dollar. Prior to 2008, our budget was in excess of $30 million. This was cut by two-thirds during the great recession and continued to be cut in subsequent years. The economy has since recovered; however, the tourism budget has never been proportionately restored.
Tourism is one of the smartest investments Pennsylvania can make. For every $1 spent on promoting tourism, $3 are returned to the Commonwealth. Moreover, tourism impacts just about every other industry in Pennsylvania positively and substantially – agriculture, construction, manufacturing, lodging, retail trade, transportation, food and beverage, entertainment and the list goes on and on. With legislators scrambling to find sustainable revenue, it’s important they see the extreme value that exists in funding Pennsylvania’s tourism marketing efforts.
According to reports published by the Department of Community and Economic Development, traveler spending in Pennsylvania totaled $40.8 billion in 2015. Additionally, Pennsylvania’s travel and tourism industry supported nearly 490,000 jobs in total, which is 6.5% of PA’s total employment. If we could produce this impact with a few million dollars, imagine what we could accomplish with a budget that allows us to adequately compete with our neighboring states! Given the potential return on investment, we hope that our legislators will make Pennsylvania tourism a top priority in the 2018-2019 budget.
To everyone who calls Pennsylvania home and who enjoys the many fruits of a thriving tourism industry, I strongly urge you to call your local legislators and express your concern. Urge them to invest in Pennsylvania by investing in tourism. The current lack of tourism funding is not sustainable and no longer something we can ignore!