A tourism haven

Visit Bucks County shares current and future marketing initiatives during annual meeting

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Best of Bucks County: At its Annual Meeting and Luncheon, Visit Bucks County vice president Paul Bencivengo provided striking statistics and details on how Bucks County is quickly becoming a tourism haven. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

In 2017, a total of 8 million visitors made the decision to see what Bucks County is all about. Rather than venture to a typical “vacation destination” such as Disney World or the Jersey shore, they chose to explore attractions like Sesame Place, dine locally along Mill Street, and take in the breathtaking scenery of the Bucks County Wine Trail.

While some of these guests may have already been familiar with the area, the majority weren’t. It was through the creative efforts of Visit Bucks County, the official tourism promotion agency, that they were informed of these places. On Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Parx Casino East, VBC hosted its Annual Meeting and Luncheon to share details on recent and upcoming marketing initiatives, all aimed at showing the world what Bucks has to offer.

The event kicked off at 11 a.m. with a mingling/networking hour, during which business and restaurant owners, local officials and community members enjoyed snacks and tastings compliments of the Wine Trail.

At noon, VBC president Jerry Lepping took the stage to provide attendees with an overview of the agency’s recent growth. Its Quilt Show saw an increase in attendance of 74 percent this summer, its Wedding Show in April welcomed more than 1,000 guests, and the Bucks County Visitor Center has experienced a 12 percent increase in walk-ins and phone calls.

After a complimentary lunch of steak, mashed potatoes, crab cake and pumpkin cheesecake, VBC vice president Paul Bencivengo provided striking statistics and further details on how Bucks County is quickly becoming a tourism haven.

According to ESI, he said visitor spending resulted in $995 million in economic impact to the local economy last year, while leisure and hospitality employment was 27,904–11.6 percent of the total Bucks County workforce. As of August 2018, hotel occupancy is up 4.1 percent from 2017 and room night demand is up 6.7 percent.

Bencivengo then touched on the numerous projects spearheaded by VBC that are helping to drive these numbers. At the forefront of many of its campaigns is the promotion of Bucks County’s expansive food and drink scene. To ensure certain spots don’t fall under the radar of tourists who are unfamiliar with the area, VBC formed three self-guided tours — Bucks County Ale Trail, Bucks County Ice Cream Trail and Path to Freedom in Bucks County.

While traveling along the Ale and Ice Cream Trails, visitors are able to experience Lower, Central and Upper Bucks, tasting craft brews and indulging in homemade ice cream flavors. As for the Path to Freedom, this tour allows visitors to trace the journey that many took as they escaped to freedom along the Underground Railroad, which includes taverns, churches and privately-owned farms.

In addition to the Trails, VBC hosted the first-ever countywide Restaurant Week, which 70 eateries spanning 20 towns participated in, and published the third edition of the biannual Well Seasoned food and beverage magazine. It’s also promoting the dining industry by sending representatives to target markets in Washington, D.C., and New York City. To reach these consumers and showcase Bucks County as a premier getaway destination, thousands of free ice cream samples from the Ice Cream Trail were recently distributed to potential visitors.

According to Bencivengo, VBC is working to gear its marketing efforts to the short attention spans of our modern world. Most people would rather view a video than read a body of text. With this in mind, VBC unveiled the brand new YouTube series Check In. Modeled after the MTV show Cribs, owners of local lodging properties give viewers a tour and glimpse into the character, details and decor that make each spot unique.

Bencivengo introduced several upcoming projects, including a reimagined holiday display at the Visitor Center. This year, former White House decorator Coleen Christian Burke will be designing the space, which Bencivengo promised will be the perfect first stop for every holiday celebration.

Also in the works is the implementation of car charging stations, the formation of a Whiskey Trail, the opening of Newtown Brewing Company, and the completion of a brick red, 3,000-pound, 40-foot long Bucks County logo, which will be housed at Peddler’s Village before rotating between locations.

The afternoon concluded with the distribution of Visit Bucks County Awards by Bill Haas, board chairperson of VBC, to local leaders who have influenced and supported tourism and hospitality in the region. Recipients included Dr. Vail P. Garvin, president and CEO of Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce; Frank Lyons, proprietor of Continental Tavern and vice president of Friends of Washington Crossing board of directors; and Robert G. Loughery, chairman of the County Commissioners.

Attendees were invited for a post-event gathering in Parx Casino’s Xlounge.

“Let’s keep the conversation going,” Haas said. ••

For more on Visit Bucks County, go to visitbuckscounty.com.

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com