ShareThis Page
State lawmakers tour attractions in Laurel Highlands, Westmoreland County | TribLIVE.com
Westmoreland

State lawmakers tour attractions in Laurel Highlands, Westmoreland County

Jeff Himler
976358_web1_gtr-LaurelLegTour1
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Rep. Dan Moul, left, is among members of the Pennsylvania House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee enjoying pie in a restored diner at the end of their visit to the Lincoln Highway Experience museum Thursday April 4, 2019, in Unity. Moul, a Republican from Gettysburg, also serves on the board of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, a 200-mile stretch of the highway that encompasses attractions such as the museum.
976358_web1_gtr-LaurelLegTour2-040519
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Olga Herbert, right, executive director of the Lincoln Highway Heritage Corridor, addresses members of the Pennsylvania House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee and their family members as they tour the Lincoln Highway Experience museum Thursday, April 4, 2019, along Route 30 in Unity.
976358_web1_gtr-LaurelLegTour3-040519
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Jack Otten, 5, left, and sister Eleanor, 3, play in the children’s room Thursday, April 4, 2019, at the Lincoln Highway Experience museum along Route 30 in Unity. They are the children of Rep. Danielle Friel Otten of Chester County, a member of the Pennsylvania House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee that was touring the museum.
976358_web1_gtr-LaurelLegTour4-040519
Jeff Himler | Tribune-Review
Mark Longietti of Mercer County, Democratic chairman of the Pennsylvania House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, pedals a bike that activates lights on a cross-country map of the Lincoln Highway on Thursday, April 4, 2019, during the committee’s tour of the Lincoln Highway Experience museum in Unity.

The transportation-themed Lincoln Highway Experience museum in Unity played host Thursday to a group of special visitors: Members of the Pennsylvania House Tourism and Recreational Development Committee, who are on a tour of Laurel Highlands attractions.

The committee leaders, Republican Chairman David Millard, of Bloomsburg, and Democratic Chairman Mark Longietti, of Mercer County, agreed that Pennsylvania has plenty of such prime attractions that can draw in tourists and their dollars.

The state just has to do a better job of letting potential visitors know about them, they said.

“It used to be we spent about $30 million per year to attract tourists,” Longietti said. “That’s been whittled all the way down to $4 million as a result of tough budgets.”

To help restore some of that lost funding, state lawmakers last year passed Act 109, which requires booking agents to collect and remit hotel occupancy tax on the “accommodation fee,” which is an amount charged by the agent in excess of the basic room charge.

“The booking sites were not applying the hotel occupancy tax to the entire price,” Longietti said. “That legislation closed that loophole.”

He estimated the broadened tax guidelines should boost the state’s tourism marketing dollars to $20 million or more.

Pennsylvania will have to catch up to some other states that have focused more resources on marketing campaigns.

Millard cited those of Virginia, New York and Michigan as particularly effective.

“We want to make sure those areas know that Pennsylvania welcomes them into our commonwealth,” he said.

“We’ve been growing our tourism industry, but we’ve also been losing market share because we stopped investing in the marketing,” Longietti said.

It’s an investment well worth making, Longietti said. He cited a study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association that indicates Pennsylvania realizes $3.43 in tax revenue for every dollar it spends marketing the state’s attractions.

“As tourists stop, they spend money,” Millard said. “Those dollars equate to tax dollars that support other things across the commonwealth.”

Employment in the tourism, hotel and restaurant industries also benefit, he noted.

Longietti said the plan is for state officials to not only invest more in tourism marketing but to invest wisely. That includes using social media to drive people to the state’s tourism website.

“We want to use all available technology to reach the 21st century traveler and highlight some of the wonderful assets that Pennsylvania has,” he said.

State tourism representatives recently filmed footage in the Laurel Highlands that will be included in upcoming marketing campaigns for winter sports, said Anna Weltz, director of public relations and community outreach for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, which organized the tour.

Tourism ranks second behind agriculture as the state’s leading industry.

“But we think it’s pretty darn close between the two,” said Weltz.

According to the latest available figures, travelers spent $1.822 billion in the Laurel Highlands in 2017, marking a 3.5% increase from 2016 and the second-highest amount on record since the $1.837 billion spent in 2014.

Based at Seven Springs, the legislative committee began Thursday’s itinerary with a visit to the Flight 93 National Memorial in Somerset County and stopped at Fort Ligonier before visiting the Lincoln Highway museum.

They were scheduled to finish the day with stops at the Fred Rogers Center on the Saint Vincent College campus and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg.

They plan to tour Fallingwater on Friday.

“What were seeing is the benefit of the dollars we invested in marketing tourism,” Millard said.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Local | Westmoreland
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.