State tourism received a big win with Governor Wolf signing HB1511. The legislation, known as Act 109 of 2018, closes a loophole in the state's tax code to ensure fairness in hotel occupancy tax remittance. The legislation requires online travel companies to remit occupancy tax based on the final price paid by consumers, rather than the lower wholesale rate negotiated by the online travel companies.
Rep. Dan Moul, a member of the House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, who voted for the bill, which passed the House 137-44, said, "It's about time the third party booking agents pay the appropriate tax for room rentals. For too long, they have been remitting tax only on the wholesale rates, not what the taxpayer actually has paid. This will help both the local and state destination marketing organizations, while generating additional revenue for the state." State Senator Rich Alloway was one of six state Senators that voted against the bill, which passed the Senate 43-6.
As part of the legislation, the funds that will result from closing the loophole - estimated at $23.8 million a year - will be dedicated to statewide tourism promotion. A 2015 study conducted by the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association (PRLA) found that every dollar invested in tourism marketing returns $3.43 in tax revenue.
Norris Flowers, President of Destination Gettysburg said, "Getting the State Tourism office budget back to a somewhat competitive level with our neighbor states will benefit all Pennsylvania destinations." Over the past 14 years, the state tourism office budget had dropped from $34 million to $4 million a year.
Act 109 also ensures that hotel occupancy tax is assessed on retail price of hotel rooms at both the state and county level, further ensuring fairness in collection and remittance while giving county destination marketing organizations like Destination Gettysburg additional resources for promotion.
Thanks to PRLA for championing this legislation on behalf of the state's hospitality and tourism industries.
For any questions, contact Norris Flowers at email@example.com.
July through September was an interesting - and exciting - time in the destination marketing world. This is a time that traditionally, from a visitation standpoint, looks a little like a roller coaster of high visitation in July with families, a bit of a dip in August and then a September rebound of our empty-nesters and couples getaways. This is all before we see the burst of October travel. Even with terrible rain and heat in August, we still saw an increase in lodging demand of 4.7% over August 2017 and we are up 5.6% in room demand year to date.
What tactics did we take to help drive traffic? We start with the large funnel and collect the visitors through our content and display campaign on TripAdvisor. In addition, we placed print ads in AAA World, Recreation News, Good Housekeeping, Redbook and Women's Day; print also included South Jersey Magazine, Whirl, Pittsburgh Magazine, Philadelphia Magazine and Baltimore Magazine. We placed inspirational messaging on radio through Maryland NPR and iHeart Radio. In our key markets, we ran short spots during the morning television news through our relationship with the US Traffic Network. We also invested in a digital campaign with our partner, Essex Digital Platforms, targeting families who are interested in historical and cultural travel, outdoor recreation and foodie adventures.
All of these efforts, pulled together through a specific collection of images and messages drives visitors to our website, app and blog. Along the way, we engage our visitors and potential visitors through our social media, filled with inspiring road tripping videos, beautiful images, list blogs, upcoming events and more. This is a daily engagement activity that helps highlight all the granular details of the destination. This is all topped off with our monthly consumer newsletter delivered to over 72,000 subscribers.
Two of our newest programs in 2018 have not only allowed us to drive traffic to our owned content, but also provide tracking data to show our ROI.
The first program, our Expedia campaign, kicked off August 20. During that time, our display campaign resulted in a click-through rate of .11%. Through that date, our $10,000 investment resulted in $99,914 in bookings (722 room nights) through the Expedia website resulting in a $138 ADR. The majority of bookings (75.1%) were multiple adults staying for one night (54.1%) or two nights (34.6%). Their travel window ranged from 35.3% traveling within 6 days of the booking to 5.2% traveling in more than 91 days. The top three windows were the 0-6 days, 31-60 days (19.2%) and 7-13 days (13.6%). These results and the data provided offer a deeper insight into our efforts.
This same tracking trend is extended with our Essex Location Tracking. The program currently tracks 284 locations in and around Gettysburg. The initial report shows tracking from July 26-Sept 16. During that time, 12,495 people visited that were exposed to one of our ads prior to their visit. Our Visit rate is 40.6%, which means that those exposed to our ad messaging were 40.6% more likely to visit than the control group who did not see our ads. The majority of our travelers visited within 2-3 weeks of being exposed to our ads. Mobile web (cell phones) reached the majority of our visitors. In looking at the average cost to attract these visitors, the cost of acquisition was only $2.27.
In addition, Destination Gettysburg promotes the Adams County Pour Tour as a secondary driver of visitation. This not only offers a reason for new visitors to travel to the area, but also a new experience for our existing visitors - and locals - to engage in our craft beverage scene, extending their stays and providing yet another reason to return.
It is these efforts and the data we collect that are the basis of our plans moving forward. As we begin to look at 2019, it is with great excitement that we have additional data to help support our recommendations and the final decisions of the board of directors.
Destination Gettysburg launched the Hospitality Heroes program in June 2017 as way for front-line staff to engage with the destination as our visitors would. By having first-hand experience, these front-line employees will be able to assist future visitors in planning their trip to Gettysburg and surrounding area by providing their own personal knowledge.
Since the launch, over 190 attendees have represented over 40 different businesses, and 18-member businesses have hosted outings and shared their experience with the Hospitality Heroes. Some of the most popular outings included a Licensed Battlefield Guide led tour of Gettysburg National Military Park (August 2017), Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center Tour and program sampling (May 2018), the Farnsworth House tour (June 2018) and Steam into History (August 2018). A monthly newsletter is also distributed to front-line staff that includes educational information, monthly events and business spotlights.
Front-line staff from any business that interacts with visitors, not just the businesses that are in the tourism industry, are encouraged to attend. Past attendees have come from accommodation properties, retail shops, spas and salons, transportation services, history and education services and non-profits. Managers and business owners should tell their front-line staff about these free opportunities to experience the destination and encourage them to attend.
Snow Time, which owns Liberty Mountain Resort, Roundtop Mountain Resort and Whitetail Resort, has entered into an agreement to sell the company to Peak Resorts, Inc.- owner of 14 other ski resorts in the Midwest and Northeast.
Irv Naylor founded Snow Time in 1964 and, with his family, built and operated the company for over 50 years.
"I am extremely pleased to pass along the stewardship of Snow Time and our three mountain resorts to Peak Resorts," said Naylor. "Having watched the progress they continue to make at the formerly family-owned Hunter Mountain, I view them as the perfect operators to take Liberty, Roundtop and Whitetail to the next level."
While ownership is changing, current staff, management teams and the resort offerings will all remain the same. Pass holders who have already purchased/renewed their season passes for the 2018/2019 will have the ability to upgrade to the Peak Pass and enjoy all of Peak's northeast resorts.
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