In May, The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB) announced strategic changes that will better position the organization to drive local economic recovery efforts through leisure, sports and business visitation, as well as ensure that the county can capitalize on future tourism growth.
Mapping out a strategy to best provide access to information to all visitors to Happy Valley, and being out front of the changing ways travelers prefer to receive information, was on the HVAB’s radar prior to the pandemic.
The pause in travel provided more time to begin putting these strategies in motion.
The new downtown State College visitor center, at 131 S. Fraser St., Suite 3, will meet the needs of those in Happy Valley for Penn State-related reasons, while the HVAB works to enhance services throughout the county to further grow visitation.
Future plans being considered are additional satellite visitor centers at key entry points into the county and in outlying communities, in addition to the existing satellite visitor center at the Bellefonte Train Station at 320 W. High St.
Greater emphasis is also being placed on digital and online tools — in addition to print – to raise visitor awareness about Happy Valley. With website traffic continuing to be strong, the HVAB will move forward later this year with plans for a newly redesigned HappyValley.com.
Launched in early 2020, the Adventure Bureau Dispatch blog site places greater emphasis on storytelling to market the county.
The digital 2021 Inspiration Guide can be updated in real time and more easily shared across social media platforms and other digital channels.
Online promotional campaigns through Expedia and TravelZoo have done well, generating favorable ROIs by the way of hotel room nights booked.
The past year also saw greater focus on a promising new market — youth sports. Youth sports is one of the fastest growing segments of the travel industry, according to Sports Destination Management.
Happy Valley is well positioned to become a “tournament town.”
The area has already hosted 29 non-Penn State athletic events, with 37 additional events booked from June through December.
This activity has helped hotel occupancy rates rebound, generating roughly 15,000 room nights to date.
The HVAB is prioritizing efforts to more fully capitalize on this premiere visitation segment. A sports sales and marketing professional with considerable experience in the industry was hired in 2020 to help achieve this goal. The HVAB is ensuring that our athletic facilities and the destination have national visibility on Play Easy Sports and other marketing platforms.
The HVAB’s Sports Committee is fostering communication and coordination among community and university athletic interests. The HVAB works closely with our venues, tournament organizers, hotels and municipal officials to ensure positive tournament experiences and outcomes. Finally, as a member of PA Sports, the HVAB helps to raise Pennsylvania’s visibility in this competitive market. With an inventory of top-notch athletic facilities, it is no surprise that the past year has seen a considerable uptick in interest in Centre County as a tournament destination.
Interest from travel writers and bloggers has also picked up significantly. The HVAB has already hosted several travel influencers this year, with more visits upcoming. In addition, the HVAB will help welcome the Mid-Atlantic Tourism Public Relations Alliance (MATPRA) gathering in October, bringing nearly 60 travel writers and 50 destination marketing organizations to Happy Valley this fall, providing even greater exposure for the destination and the region.
Future initiatives to grow our tourism product include the creation of a new, Arts and Culture Committee to help that industry recover from the pandemic and thrive, and the formation of a local tourism ambassador program, which recognizes the role we all can play in marketing Happy Valley as a great place to visit, live, work, learn and play.
Lesley Kistner is the public affairs director for The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau. This column appears in the June 10-16 edition of The Centre County Gazette.