Visit Philadelphia, the tourism bureau for the City of Brotherly Love, boasts a solid relationship with hotels and boasts it has helped prompt 228% growth in downtown leisure hotel room nights since 1997. I interviewed with the organization’s President and CEO Meryl Levitz to learn more.
Larry Mogelonsky: Describe the general relationship that Visit Philadelphia has with the city’s hotels.
Meryl Levitz: Visit Philadelphia is supported in part by a county hotel tax, and our staff works with the local hotel community. We have a hotel advisory committee on our company’s board of directors, and three members of our board are general managers of Philadelphia hotels. Several of our staff members sit on the Hotel Initiative Committee and respond to hotel management teams by posting hotel package information, creating press releases about hotel news and packages, sharing hotel information on our social media vehicles and highlighting hotels in all of our marketing initiatives and campaigns.
We help sell hotel rooms by promoting all the reasons people should visit and stay for a night or two or three. Our current Visit Philly Overnight Hotel Package, which comes with free hotel parking, is one of the most popular offers for travelers.
LM: What can hotels do to work better with local tourism bureaus?
ML: Make the tourism bureaus aware of major property changes or special events and deals as quickly as possible. Host the staff of the bureaus onsite so that we can help them get their messages out to consumers. Folks who work for tourism agencies all have an active audience hungry for word-of-mouth recommendations, and they quickly become hotel ambassadors.
Hotels can recognize their need periods and come up with last-minute opportunities that showcase their properties. Also, hotels can distinguish themselves as a part of the community so that a property seems appealing for its destination location. For example, the Hotel Monaco Philadelphia (a Kimpton property) has made it very clear in all of its communications that it is the only hotel in the city to overlook the Liberty Bell. It emphasized that it offered free bikes for guests in a city that is proud to promote bike lanes and easy bike access.
LM: How does Visit Philadelphia help hotels capitalize on local events?
ML: Visit Philadelphia has a website and insider blog that is often used as a reference by hotel staff. During the government shutdown in 2013, one hotel staff member informed us that they used our content (What is still open in the historic district?) exclusively to share with hotel guests who were visiting and wanted to see historic sites. We have a very popular calendar of events on our blog that has become a great place for hotel concierges to get information for hotel guests.
LM: What other advice can you give hotels to maximize their relationships with tourism agencies?
ML: Hotels need to become part of the fabric of the destination and reflect its personality. When people are passionate about a brand or a place, it can become part of their lifestyles. In recent years, Philadelphia has acquired lifestyle-focused hotels or boutique brands that have evolved with the changing tastes of travelers, and more are on the way. Lastly, the growing reputation of hotel restaurants and bars is important, and hotels need to continue to sell their properties, both as hotels and places to eat and drink for visitors and locals.
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in HOTELSmag on March 4, 2014)