Westmoreland tourism program marks 11th year
Fourteen Ligonier Valley recipients were among the 59 county tourism-related businesses and organizations to receive a grant from the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau at the recent Westmoreland County Tourism Grant award ceremony at St. Vincent College in Unity.
“It speaks for the merit of the applications submitted by Ligonier Valley recipients,” said Julie Donovan director of marketing and public relations. “They stood out in the field of 103 applicants for the quality projects and applications they submitted.”
Donovan said the number of applications received from Ligonier businesses also reflects how important tourism is to the Ligonier Valley.
“Tourism is such an important part of our economy and they are constantly trying to increase marketability or enhance physical sites.”
In all, the program awarded 63 grants totaling $413,624. It was the largest dollar amount of grants awarded in the program's 11-year history.
“This all reflects back on the focus you all maintain on visitor service. Treat them well, and they will come back,” said Ron Virag, a member of the program's five-member selection committee and the bureau's executive director.
The grant program is funded by one-third of revenues generated by the county's hotel room tax — a 3 percent levy on all overnight accommodations that became effective July 1, 2002.
Recipients were selected from a field of applications which the committee judged by two categories: marketing and advertising programs and capital projects.
The advertising programs are to be targeted to media that will reach potential visitors outside of the county.
Two of the recipients will use the grant money for new signs.
The Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor was awarded $2,000 to improve signs so visitors can safely and easily find the museum's driveway located near the Kingston Bridge intersection with the Lincoln Highway.
“The new Lincoln Highway Experience Museum is located on the eastbound side of the Lincoln Highway, and they want visitors to be able to easily find the building if they are heading westbound. With the grant they will provide new signage that will capture westbound travelers,” Donovan said.
The Road Toad Restaurant will use a $5,000 capital grant to design and install a new outdoor sign that will reflect the natural beauty of the Ligonier Valley.
“The Road Toad is located at a major gateway to the Ligonier Valley,” Donovan said. “Signage is critical for this business and will be very welcoming for visitors.”
The remaining recipients will use grant monies to expand their marketing campaigns, design or improve websites and participate in the bureau's marketing opportunities.
Donovan said some of the monies will be used to purchase photo ads in the bureau's annual Pennsylvania's Laurel Highlands Destination Guide.
“We distribute 200,000 copies of the guide each year,” said Donovan.
Others will promote their business with spot light ads on the laurelhighlands.org website.
“We are the official website for the Laurel Highlands region,” said Donovan. “We are the No. 1 resource for visitors to find out what is happening in the Laurel Highlands.”
Donovan said the bureau's initiative is to direct visitors to the website.
“We market other regions like Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Cleveland,” said Donovan. “When they get on, they can then find out about packages, deals and special events.”
Donovan said the impact of the marketing initiatives implemented by the grant program is important to the entire county.
“It generates the opportunity for overnight stays and a need for places to eat. This program will increase awareness, increase visitation to the area and increase the economy,” said Donovan.
Other Ligonier Valley recipients include:
• The Campbell House B&B & Efficiency Motel received a $3,500 to increase overnight stays by placing spotlight ads and advertising in the bureau's Romantic Getaway E-Newsletters.
• Carol & Dave's Roadhouse will utilize a $2,500 grant to redesign their website and to participate in the bureau's marketing initiatives.
• Champion Lakes Golf Course and Bed & Breakfast will use a $1,500 grant to increase visitation from Cleveland, Ohio, Maryland and Toronto, Canada.
• Fort Ligonier will utilize a $15,000 marketing grant for website upgrades, E-marketing initiatives and television ads.
• Fort Ligonier Days, Inc. will use a $14,000 marketing grant to target potential attendees in the Cleveland, Ohio and Baltimore, Maryland areas via a multi-media campaign including online marketing initiatives, print ads and radio spots.
• Idlewild & SoakZone received a $25,000 marketing grant for an outdoor marketing campaign in Northeast Ohio with $5,000 being contributed toward the Westmoreland County Airport Initiative.
• The Laurel Highlands Heritage Festivals Marketing Cooperative, a group that brings together four historically-themed festivals including the Stahlstown Flax Scutching and the Ligonier Highland Games, will use a $3,500 grant for television ads, billboards and online banner ads, all directing potential visitors to the 4FallFestivals.com website.
• Ligonier Valley Chamber of Commerce received an $8,000 marketing grant to expand awareness of the valley's special events, shopping, dining, lodging establishments and attractions through a comprehensive marketing campaign that will include brochure distribution, E-marketing, print advertisements and participation with the bureau's programs.
• Ligonier Valley Historical Society was awarded a $7,000 grant to increase visitation to the grounds for tours and special events via participation in bureau programs, the Tribune Ticket and cable television spotlight ads.
• Northview Inn Bed and Breakfast, Inc. received a $1,000 grant to target overnight guests though a business listing on Trip Advisor, brochure distribution and spotlight ads through the bureau.
• Ramada Ligonier will utilize a $10,000 grant for their overall marketing strategy which includes Fallingwater's “lodging Partners in Education” program, participation in group tradeshows, advertising at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport and participating in bureau's marketing opportunities.
• Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art at Ligonier Valley will use a $1,000 marketing grant to assist with public relations efforts to promote exhibitions, artists and other special events.
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or email@example.com.