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Visitors Bureau Selects Agency to Lead Major Rebranding Initiative

by on June 03, 2019 12:13 PM

In what it called "a major step toward its goal of attracting more visitors to Centre County," the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau has hired a creative agency to lead a rebranding of both the organization and the area as a tourist destination.

Allen & Gerritsen was selected from among eight firms that responded to a request for proposals. A&G is led by Tim Reeves, who previously oversaw Pennsylvania’s tourism efforts under Gov. Tom Ridge and resides in central Pennsylvania.

“The hiring of A&G is the first step to fulfilling a strategic commitment to use increased hotel bed tax revenues to enhance the marketing and promotion of Centre County as a tourism destination,” Fritz Smith, CPCVB executive director, said in a news release. “We have a tremendous story to tell; our outdoor, historical and cultural assets are wonderful undiscovered treasures. We need to better tell that story and create a compelling and appealing identity that resonates with potential visitors."

In February, Centre County commissioners approved the first local hotel occupancy tax increase in 17 years, doubling the rate from 2.5 percent to 5 percent. The visitors bureau receives hotel tax revenues for its operations in promoting tourism locally and to provide grants to nonprofits for events and initiatives to drive tourism.

Smith has said that new tax revenue — which is expected to increase to about $4 million in the first year — will in turn be used to increase tourism across the board in the county, from new marketing efforts to more funds for events that can bring visitors to the area. CPCVB recently brought on several new staff members to contribute to those efforts.

A&G was selected for the rebranding because they demonstrated that they understood the community and could "help craft a compelling message to the right audience,” Smith said

Part of that message, according to Smith, is that while Penn State is an important partner and tourism asset, Centre County has more to offer than just the university.

Of the eight firms that responded, four were selected to formally present to CPCVB, members of its marketing committee and key community stakeholders. Smith said all had compelling presentations, but that in addition to its understanding of Centre County's unique market, A&G had a strong creative vision, experienced staff and a focus on community partnership.

Edward Tubbs, chief operating officer of Hospitality Asset Management Company and president of the CPCVB Board of Directors, said A&G was the right choice for a critical decision.

“Knowing the process to select an agency was completed in such a professional and well-thought-out manner speaks to the positive future of the organization and the benefits that will come to all in Centre County,” Tubbs said.

Reeves added that he knows Centre County well and that its “remarkable, yet largely undiscovered assets,” can be marketed to attract more visitors.

“This is an incredible opportunity to put Centre County even more on the map,” he said.


Agritourism Initiative

Among the varied aspects of the area that the visitors bureau seeks to emphasize is agritourism. In November, CPCVB partnered with the Chamber of Business and Industry Centre County to promote the region's agricultural assets, from existing ventures like Central Pennsylvania Tasting Trail to potential new endeavors, with the goal of increasing tourism and boosting agricultural-related businesses.

“The past few months have been spent in dialogue with various stakeholders in order to begin crafting a vision for agri-tourism in the county,”  Smith said in May. “By highlighting all aspects of our proud agricultural heritage, we aim to attract more visitors who want to experience the unique agritourism opportunities that Centre County has to offer.”

Vern Squier, CBICC president and CEO, said those conversations are being formalized into a new initiative that promotes local agriculture, from traditional growing and farming to innovative operations and products.

“We are excited about this collaborative effort, as is the agricultural community,” Squier said. “The initial response to what we are trying to accomplish for the county and ag-related industries has been very positive.”

Loaded Creative, of Bellefonte, is leading the overall branding campaign for the agritourism initiative, with 3Twenty9 Design/Hello Social Co. handling web and social media work. CPCVB and CBICC plan to have a public launch for the initiative later this summer.

Smith said overall efforts to boost tourism will benefit the local economy.

“The ripple effect of welcoming more visitors to Centre County is good news for the hospitality and agricultural industries, business growth and job creation, and the overall economy,” Smith said. “We look forward to this partnership with A&G and working with all stakeholders to position Centre County as a destination people want to come to, stay and explore.”

Visitor Spending Grows

Even before the increased revenue from the occupancy tax, visitor spending has been on the rise in Centre County.

In 2017, the most recent year tallied, travelers spent $794.2 million in Centre County, nearly $46 million more than in 2016, according to the Economic Impact of Travel in Pennsylvania, a study conducted by Tourism Economics to monitor and quantify travel and tourism’s economic impact on the state.

The hospitality industry supported 5,049 tourism related jobs and generated $41.5 million in state and local taxes in 2017, a number that is expected to increase with the occupancy tax increase.

Visitors spent $139.3 million on lodging, $180.9 million on food and beverage, $132.4 million on shopping, $122.3 on recreation and $219.3 on transportation, which can include gas and airline, bus or train fare, as well as costs for parking, tolls and car repairs while traveling, Smith said last week.

“The importance of the hospitality industry to the success of Centre County cannot be underestimated and these numbers prove it," he said. "We anticipate and look forward to welcoming even greater numbers of visitors to Centre County, giving our communities the opportunity to share what is unique and wonderful about Happy Valley and improving the lives of locals."

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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