Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau: Driving Tourism and Growing the City’s Economy for More than 75 Years
Updated: 6.1.18 Conferences & Events

Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau: Driving Tourism and Growing the City’s Economy for More than 75 Years

By: Chris Curry

The Crunch: For more than 75 years, the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau has promoted the City of Brotherly Love to draw in tourists and conferences from around the world. And, while in the city, visitors stay and dine at PHLCVB-member hotels and restaurants. The trade shows and meetings the PHLCVB books for the Philadelphia Convention Center have an annual economic impact in the range of $1 billion. The Convention Services division also helps plan events and ensures that attendees and organizations have a smooth and enjoyable stay in the city. Today, the PHLCVB’s marketing and event booking activities have helped the hotel industry and the local economy achieve record high occupancy rates and economic impact from tourism and major events.

The historic City of Brotherly Love has emerged as a prime destination for major events over the last several years. Pope Francis’ 2015 visit drew more than 1 million visitors from around the world, and the 2016 Democratic National Convention generated $22.9 million in hotel revenue, with a total economic impact of $230 million. The 2017 NFL Draft attracted 250,000 visitors and generated approximately $95 million for the local economy.

And the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau has played a vital role in that string of successes.

The PHLCVB is a private nonprofit membership organization that serves as Philadelphia’s official tourism promotion agency — and the primary sales and marketing agency for the 1 million-square-foot Pennsylvania Convention Center. The group’s more than 800 members include the hotels and restaurants where tourists and conference attendees stay and dine when in Philadelphia.

In 2016, the PHLCVB booked trade shows, conferences, meetings and associated hotel stays that generated a $989 million in economic impact. The 700 events the organization booked in 2016 for upcoming years had a projected impact of $1.3 billion.

The American Heart Association selected the Pennsylvania Convention Center as the location for its 2019 annual convention. In announcing the decision, AHA Director of Meetings Jason Ware praised the dedication of the PHLCVB staff, who spent more than 10 years working to get the event and collaborated with key stakeholders from the Convention Center, the hotel industry, and city leadership.

And the PHLCVB’s involvement doesn’t end when major events are booked. The Convention Services department assists in the planning stages for meetings and conferences.

PHLCVB marketing and tourist development efforts include advertisements that highlight the city’s historic attractions and its proximity to both New York City and Washington, DC. The PHLCVB also has a division dedicated to drawing major sporting events to the city’s top-notch stadiums and arenas.

The PHLCVB formed 77 years ago. In the 1940s, the organization attracted events and tourists that generated a total economic impact of $85 million, adjusted for today’s dollars. Today, the impact is in the range of $1 billion annually.

“Our tourism and hospitality industry is a vital part of Philadelphia, supporting more than 68,000 jobs, enriching our community, and inspiring civic pride,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a video statement for the organization’s 75th anniversary. “As we have worked together to attract bigger and more significant events, like the 2016 DNC and the 2017 NFL draft, the city’s support of the hospitality industry and its great relationship with the Convention and Visitors Bureau is more important than ever.”

Rich History & Geography Lay the Foundation for $1B Events Industry

Philadelphia has an important place in American history, and visitors see firsthand the buildings and locations where the country was born.

Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, the President’s House, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, the National Constitution Center, the Museum of the American Revolution, the African American Museum, and the National Museum of American Jewish History are all within a square mile of each other in Philadelphia’s Historic District.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art and historic City Hall, the largest municipal building in the US and a unique example of the Second Empire style of architecture, are also major attractions.

The rich history led the Organization of World Heritage Cities to name Philadelphia the first World Heritage City in the United States. U.S. News & World Report named Philadelphia the second best city to visit in the US.

The bounty of historic sites helps the city — and the PHLCVB — attract tourists from across the country and around the world. The PHLCVB also showcases the city’s history to draw in trade shows, conferences, and major meetings. Attendees can visit the sites during their downtime. During the day, family members can also take a stroll around the city, which is ranked fourth on the list of Most Walkable Cities in the US.

Philadelphia’s proximity to other major cities on the East Coast — less than two hours from both New York City and Washington, DC — makes it a convenient destination for travelers.

The Philadelphia International Airport offers service to more than 120 cities across the globe and 1,000 daily flights, including 100 international flights. The city also boasts a regional bus, subway, and commuter-rail public transportation system, ranked second in the nation among cities with a population above 1 million.

The plentiful dining options — from the famous Philly cheesesteaks to more elegant fare — led Bon Appétit magazine to name Philadelphia one of the country’s great eating cities.

The history, geography, dining, and vibrant sports scene — Philadelphia has teams in all four major professional sports and is a hub for college basketball — all combine to make the city an attractive destination for conferences and events.

Convention Services Ensure Organizations Have Successful Meetings

The PHLCVB Convention Services department is committed to helping organizations plan their conference or event from beginning to end. Once an event is booked, the department works to organize logistics, including booking stays at member hotels.

Convention Services staff will help select leisure-time activities, spousal programs, receptions, and dinners to ensure organizations have a successful event that includes enjoying much of what the city has to offer.

Photo of the Philadelphia Convention Center

The PHLCVB helps organizations plan events at sites like the spacious Philadelphia Convention Center.

The Convention Services department updates its Professional Planners Guide annually. The guide runs more than 120 pages and includes a wealth of information on accommodations, event venues, dining, sightseeing, transportation routes, and a calendar of special events.

It also features a detailed floor plan of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and an extensive list of local vendors for planning, entertainment, equipment rental, transportation, security, catering, and other services.

Showcasing the City of Brotherly Love to Drive Record Highs for Tourism & Hospitality

In the summer of 2016, the PHLCVB booked the DNC, two major sporting events, eight citywide conventions, and other conferences and meetings that generated a half a billion dollars in economic impact. The Philadelphia hospitality industry calls it the “$500 Million Summer.” Hotel room occupancy also reached a record high of 78%, making 2016 the busiest summer on record for the city’s hospitality industry.

The PHLCVB helped generate those record numbers by working proactively to attract and book major events at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. In 2016 alone, the Convention Center hosted 382,000 people, generated $722 million in economic impact, and was responsible for booking 397,000 room nights at area hotels.

In addition to event booking, the PHLCVB actively markets and advertises to showcase the city to tourists from around the country — and the world.

“The work of the PHLCVB positively affects efforts that are vital to helping support tourism,” Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said in the PHLCVB 2016 Annual Report. “In 2016, the work of the PHLCVB helped to support over 71,000 hospitality-related jobs in the city of Philadelphia alone, continuing to serve as a strong economic driver of growth and development for Pennsylvania. With the PHLCVB hard at work, we can be confident that more conventions, more visitors and more economic impact are ahead for both Philadelphia and the commonwealth.”