Visit Bucks recognizes tourism employees at annual breakfast

Visit Bucks recognizes hospitality employees at annual breakfast

During the event at Rose Bank Winery, the Bucks County Commissioners distributed trophies to the winners of the 2019 National Travel & Tourism Week Awards

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Bucks County pride: The Rising Star Award went to Nicole Joie (second from L), PR and marketing coordinator of the Bucks County Historical Society, for her friendly, professional and welcoming presence. Joie is pictured with Commissioners Robert Loughery, Diane Ellis-Marseglia and Charlie Martin. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

In honor of National Travel & Tourism Week, a countrywide celebration of the hospitality industry that took place May 5–11, Visit Bucks County hosted its annual breakfast last Tuesday.

Dozens of community partners and elected officials convened at the scenic Rose Bank Winery, located at 258 Durham Road, Newtown, to hear about the agency’s current marketing initiatives and congratulate the 2019 National Travel & Tourism Award winners and Spring Grant recipients. It was VBC’s most highly-attended meeting to date.

After 30 minutes of networking and enjoying a spread of croissants and muffins, VBC president/COO Jerry Lepping took his spot at the podium to welcome attendees and provide impressive tourism statistics. As reported by the U.S. Travel Association, travel generated $2.5 trillion for the U.S. economy and supported 15.7 million jobs in 2018, with one out of every 10 national jobs being dependent on tourism.

“Nearly $1 billion in economic impact is generated from 8 million annual visitors to Bucks County. Local retail like the antique shops that line Bristol Borough’s Mill Street and major attractions such as Sesame Place strengthen every facet of our community,” Lepping said. “When we explore our own backyard or travel far, we not only create lifelong memories, but we support local economies.”

Vice president Paul Bencivengo, who will transition into Lepping’s role on June 1 after the longtime president retires, took the stage to touch on VBC’s recent initiatives to strengthen the local hospitality industry.

These included the second annual Restaurant Week, which saw more than 70 participating eateries, and the promotion of the Wine and Ale Trails. This spring, the beer Eighty-Two Kölsch, a collaboration between VBC, Free Will and Neshaminy Creek, will be released, a nod to the year Bucks County was founded.

Additionally, Bencivengo said VBC is working to not only bring in visitors from areas such as New York and New Jersey, but promote travel within the county. For example, the goal is to have a family residing in Quakertown take a drive down to Bristol.

The crowd then heard from Commissioner Rob Loughery, who expressed pride over the fact that fellow parents at the U.S. Naval Academy, where his daughter attends, show recognition when he says he’s from Bucks County, even those who hail from Washington and Texas.

“It’s the brand that we have that has a lot to do with why people want to come here, visit, stay, play, all of the things that ultimately have a bottom-line impact on the county, on our economy,” Loughery said. “Tourism is an important part of our local economy. The county is proud of the 28,000 hospitality employees welcoming visitors and locals alike. Great service is a critical component to ensure repeat business to our area restaurants, lodging properties and attractions.”

Loughery shared information on a new Tourism and Hospitality Product Development Assessment initiative that is being conducted in partnership with the Bucks County Industrial Development Authority, the Bucks County Workforce Development Board and VBC. The assessment will provide future recommendations for development that will enhance Bucks County’s tourism product and generate greater economic impact and job growth.

Next, Loughery and Commissioner Diane Ellis-Marseglia presented citations and trophies to the winners of the 2019 National Travel & Tourism Week Awards.

The Community Service Award went to Jef Buehler of Experience Yardley, who boasts more than 30 years experience working in community and economic development. Jessica Siedler, the general manager of Homewood Suites in Doylestown, was the recipient of the Guest Service Excellence Award. Shante Annigew, director of sales at Candlewood Suites Bensalem-Philadelphia took home the Hospitality Leadership Award for consistently exceeding revenue goals. The Rising Star Award went to Nicole Joie, PR and marketing coordinator of the Bucks County Historical Society for her friendly, professional and welcoming presence.

Last but not least, the Dedicated Partner Award was presented by Lisa Paglaiccetti, VBC’s industry relations director, to New Hope Celebrates for its promotion of diversity and inclusiveness.

“For more than 15 years, their annual Pride Fest has brought 15,000 visitors annually to the New Hope area for the month of May,” she explained.

Commissioner Charlie Martin concluded the morning by announcing the recipients of VBC’s Spring Tourism Grant. Since its inception 11 years ago, the bi-annual award has distributed more than $4.1 million in tourism funds to more than 100 local nonprofits. The grant is supported by a portion earned from the Bucks County lodging tax.

During the breakfast, $181,000 was divided among more than 30 organizations, including the Bucks County Wine Trail, Middletown Grange Fair, Pennsbury Society, Bristol Borough Raising the Bar and TMA Bucks Foundation. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at