WTAJ Originals: New tax will benefit Central PA Convention and Visitors Bureau

Daily Originals

This morning a joint news conference was held by the Central PA Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Centre County Commissioners who shared some details on where money from a recently approved hotel tax will be spent.

Last month Centre County Commissioners approved a hotel tax that will double the main source of funding for the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau…the tax takes effect April 1 of this year.

Now the Visitors Bureau is making plans to spend that money.

“The lion’s share of the money will go to sales and marketing efforts, although we will add staff, a couple people, the vast majority of money, at least 80 percent of it will go towards increased marketing,” said Fritz Smith, Executive Director of the Central PA Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Which includes digital marketing and a revamped website.

Also a new name for the Visitors Center, which hasn’t been announced yet.

“We’ve learned that the name Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau just doesn’t seem to resonate with people outside of this region,” said Smith. “They don’t get a clear image of who and what we’re talking about when we say that…. so there will be brand identity that begins to change.”

The other 20 percent of funds will go to grant programs, which non-profits, and now four profit organizations deemed worthy of the grant can apply for online until the end of the month. Those who received grants in the past say it’s a huge part of their success.

“Number 1 stumbling block for any arts organization…marketing,” said Elaine Meder Wilgus, Owner of Websters Bookstore & Cafe. “Finding money for marketing. We have the talent, somehow we have the time, but rarely do we have the funds to get the word out about what we’re doing.”

“I think the new tax will lead to a lot of new initiatives and I’m looking forward to that, we have a great story in Centre County, we just need to tell it to more people,” said Rick Bryant, Executive Director of Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts.

Many new organizations also say they’re excited to apply for grants.

“It’s gonna be more exciting and filtering it down, I mean, it’s going to be a domino effect to lots of businesses,” said Tami Schuster, Owner of Our Fair Lady Bed & Breakfast, and President of the Bellefonte Chamber of Commerce.

“We’ve already heard from some organizations after the room tax ordinance was passed,” said Smith. “We heard from some organizations that had some great ideas about activities. Some were existing events, some were just ideas, so it will be interesting to see what we get when the applications are due March 31.”

Fritz Smith with the Visitors Bureau also says he thinks the tax will bring 500 new jobs to the county, mainly in the hotel and restaurant industry.

“Those are fairly standard industry measurements that my counterparts across the country, and the professional organizations that we belong to have spent decades analyzing what the effects on sales and marketing have on a community…and if they’re done effectively, those are fairly standard numbers,” said Smith.

But Commissioner Steve Dershem says beyond the economics, it will improve the quality of life for citizens

“The most important thing is, and really who benefits from this is our community, by bringing more people in, by bringing more opportunity in…that enriches everybody’s lifestyle here in Centre County,” said Centre County Commissioner Steve Dershem.

The Visitors Bureau said they plan to partner with Penn State’s School of Recreation Parks and Tourism Management to better understand the top visitor demographic for Centre County.

Each commissioner also announced a special event coming to the county this year, which included:

– The International Town and Gown Association who’s holding a special event in State College in May

-The Transylvania Mountain Bike Epic, which is coming back to State College, after a 1-year hiatus, in late May of this year The event will from March 23 to 27, and include 5-day mountain bike race that attracts riders from around the world

-The Happy Valley Music Festival which will be in downtown State College at the end of May and the beginning of June

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