When Bustleton native and Langhorne resident Paul Bencivengo landed a job as a busboy at the former Bay Street Restaurant, he never dreamed clearing tables would form the basis of a successful career in the hospitality industry.
While his teenage peers were simply in it to make a little extra cash, Bencivengo immersed himself in nearly all facets of the restaurant, from dishwasher to line cook and server to managing food and beverage inventory. There was just something about providing a top-notch experience to locals and tourists alike that resonated with him.
Fast-forward to present day, and Bencivengo has quite the impressive resume, with positions including digital marketing manager for the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau and, most recently, vice president of Visit Bucks County — the official tourism promotion agency of the area.
On July 1, Bencivengo officially stepped into what’s arguably his most prestigious role yet — president/COO of Visit Bucks County. His promotion was announced in March, when Jerry Lepping, who held the title for more than a decade, announced his retirement.
“There was mutual interest from the board as well as myself in order to succeed Jerry,” Bencivengo said. “As vice president, I was kind of his right hand man for a few years there. I was attending board meetings. I was out doing a lot of the presentations not only to the hospitality industry, but also the local business community. I think it was just the perfect fit for me to move into this role.”
According to Bill Haas, Visit Bucks County board chairperson, it was a no-brainer to have Bencivengo head the organization.
“With two decades of experience working in the region’s travel and hospitality industry and a passion for marketing and economic development, Paul was a unanimous selection to be the organization’s next leader,” Haas said.
Bencivengo came to VBC in 2009 as its marketing director before he was named vice president in 2014. He oversaw the marketing and industry relations teams, and spearheaded efforts to become more representative of the whole county and expand product development.
“That’s a big push for me as we move forward and look into the future, as we continue to not only market everything that’s amazing here for people to come see and do, but also help spur development and help Bucks County evolve as a tourism destination,” he said. “Product development is a big piece of what I’m going to focus on.”
Currently, two consultants are doing an analysis of Bucks County to determine where VBC is lacking. Should there be an additional festival? What about another museum? Bencivengo will receive their recommendations by the end of the year, and craft a strategic plan on how to keep the county fresh and on the cutting-edge of tourism.
When taking into consideration Bencivengo’s vast experience, this task shouldn’t pose too big a challenge for the husband and father of three (two teens and a dog). After earning his bachelor’s in marketing at Temple University’s Fox School of Business, followed by a master’s degree from the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, he served as a content manager for HoopsTV.com.
In 2001, he was hired by the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau, where he launched the city’s first internationally-translated website, and worked on marketing and digital projects for the Pennsylvania Convention Center, ESPN X Games and Army/Navy Game.
In 2009, when the opportunity came along to join the VBC staff as marketing director, he jumped at the chance because of the great potential he saw in his hometown and its surrounding areas. He spearheaded unique advertising campaigns to drive tourism to Bucks County, garnering awards such as Travel + Leisure’s Social Media in Travel & Tourism (SMITTY) Award.
Bencivengo stressed that these accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible without VBC’s tight-knit team of digital marketers, social media specialists and advertisers — all individuals he’ll be relying heavily on as he leads the organization into its next chapter.
“I couldn’t be happier. Everybody knows what the goal is all about – driving visitors to Bucks County and putting heads in beds and butts in seats. We look to remain innovative and an industry leader,” he said. “We don’t just look at other destinations, what they’re doing. We also look at national brands that follow trends to see how they market, and we look to then implement some of those strategies for the hospitality industry and for destination marketing.”
For example, VBC was the third destination to partner with FourSquare, a popular location data platform, and the first to partner with Foodspotting, a dish discovery app.
“Being able to partner with those social giants at the time was pretty cool being that we’re not a large destination. But they saw the passion that we had here in Bucks County and understood that we were marketing to people in New York and Philadelphia,” Bencivengo said.
Last week, during his first staff meeting as president, Bencivengo discussed with his team the importance of VBC’s work. Campaigns such as the Ice Cream Trail and Restaurant Week are helping tourists make memories, but they’re also positively affecting the local economy. According to him, 8 million people visit Bucks County every year, creating $1 billion in economic impact and keeping 28,000 hospitality workers employed.
“At the end of the day, the more people that we can drive here to experience the county, the more economic impact that occurs and the more jobs we can support,” Bencivengo said. “This is just the beginning. I’m super excited to see where we’re going to go moving forward, and how we’re going to help Bucks County and the destination as a whole evolve into a place that people don’t just want to visit, but live here and work here.” ••
Samantha Bambino can be reached at email@example.com