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Philadelphia: bragging rights

Smith
Smith
Written by editor

Somewhere in the 19th century, W.C.

Somewhere in the 19th century, W.C. Fields, commenting on Philadelphia said, “I went to Philadelphia, but it was closed,” and “I once spent a year in Philadelphia, I think it was on a Sunday.”

Top Performing Destination
Thanks to the efforts of Fritz Smith and the Philadelphia CVB, W.C. Fields would not recognize the City of Brotherly Love. This formerly sleepy city (75-90 minutes by Amtrak from NYC) is one of the major tourism destinations in the United States. In 2008, over 710,000 international visitors found their way to Philadelphia, placing it 11th in the top 20 places to visit in the USA and the 10th among all US cities favored by UK travelers. Kayak.com places Philadelphia as the 26th most popular destination domestically and internationally.

Not Accidental
A destination does not grow without stewardship, and Fritz Smith has been largely responsible for the increasing popularity of Philadelphia as an important destination. He started his career at the Hilton Towers Hotel, Washington, DC in 1984 and entered the Marriott Management Training Program in 1986. From 1996 – 2001, he was associated with the State Tourism Office and was appointed Deputy Secretary for Tourism, Film, and Economic Development by Governor Mark S. Schweiker.

NEW INTERNATIONAL MARKETS

Philadelphia, “Here I Come”
Smith is noted for taking the initiative to introduce a sales blitz directed to the European markets of France and Italy and developing a tracking system to document tourist’s point of origin. Since the first international sales foray abroad, global visitations have increase from 420,000 to 720,000. To enforce the focus of Philadelphia as an international city, Smith has made the PCVB website user-friendly for international visitors, and the site holds the distinction of having more original translated content than any other US CVB.

Importance of Globalization
The US Travel Association (USTA) finds than an international tourist to the US spends, on average, US$4,500 per visit. According to Smith, “Philadelphia has seen firsthand how international marketing can have a big return on investment.” He attributes international tourism increases to a favorable exchange rate, additional flights linking Philadelphia international Airport with European cities, and a savvy marketing campaign.”

A Portal and Destination
According to Fritz Smith of the Philadelphia CVB, his city is an important gateway to other parts of the USA for both international and domestic visitors. Some travelers will come to the city to/from Washington, DC, and New York, and according to Smith: “It is attractive because of its many hotels, attractions and it has been able to resist price escalation. In addition, the city did not get seduced into building more hotels than the market demanded.”

“At the beginning of the economic downturn there were 3 or 4 properties on the verge or being built but these projects were halted. The fact that they did not open turned out to be fabulous. As a result the existing hotels do not have to drastically discount their pricing. There is optimism that 2011 will be an excellent year for tourism increases,” according to Smith. He continued, “As we look at early bookings for 2011, we are seeing a favorable trend, assisted in part by new attractions such as the National Museum of Jewish American History and the President’s House, which is a partial reconstruction of George Washington’s home that will enhance the historic district.”

Arts and Culture Increase Tourism
The Annenberg Foundation has provided large grants to Philadelphia to enhance their arts and music scene. A month-long festival at the Kimmel Center is planned for April 2011 and will showcase the Philadelphia region by showcasing more than 100 of its arts and cultural organization (US$10,000,000). In addition, the Philadelphia Museum of Art received a US$50,000 grant, and the Philadelphia Orchestra received US$50,000 for the support of the orchestra from Annenberg.

Challenges
Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter sees his city as challenged by going green and aims to make Philadelphia the greenest city in the USA by 2015.

A new program to enhance tourism to Philadelphia has been branded Philly 360 with the objective of providing visitors with a complete picture of what the city offers. The target market for this campaign is the African-American traveler ( http://philly360.visitphilly.com ).

There are mixed reviews of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Philadelphia International airport (PHL). Some passengers find it “modern,” “decent,” and “clean,” while others find the service “the worst part of the airport.” Airport employees are called the “laziest” and “meanest” ( http://www.airlinequality.com ). However, the AXE study places PHL third in the USA for “making a connection” since, “with an average of 247 days of obscured visibility per year, there should still be plenty of delays to give passengers time to play” (Sperling’s Best Places).

Explorer 1010
Whether the motivation is a love of history, an appreciation of the arts, fine dining and luxurious accommodations, good walking streets and bike paths, or a seriously good education, Philadelphia offers a warm welcome to all visitors. For additional information: http://www.philadelphiausa.travel/ .