PITTSBURGH – Participants at the fall conference of the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association here were told the state’s tourism and film industries are solid economic generators, impacting the state’s economy by $37.6 billion annually.
Carolyn Boser Newhouse, Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Investment, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), said over 291,000 direct jobs are linked to the state’s $37 billion tourism industry across the commonwealth. (Team Pennsylvania Foundation sponsored a portion of the costs of DCED officials to attend the conference.)
“29.1 million hotel rooms were sold in Pennsylvania last year, there are 521,000 jobs overall linked to tourism, and international travelers spent $3.9 billion in Pennsylvania last year,” Newhouse said. “We know this is a boost to our economy.”
Tinsy Lipchak, Vice President, Marketing, VisitPittsburgh, said the 11 million annual visitors to the region fuel the economy to the tune of $5.3 billion while providing 38,000 jobs for local residents. She noted a turning point in the tourism industry came in 2009 when Pittsburgh hosted the G20 Summit.
“We had media coming here expecting to cover demonstrations and protests,” Lipchak said. “But what they witnessed instead was the renaissance of the region from a steel town to a highly technological economy. Media coverage during the summit generated $100 million in new business.”
Julie Donovan, Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau, said the bureau has been branding the region as a travel destination for the past 55 years.
“When Nora Roberts, a best-selling New York Times author, mentions the Laurel Highlands in one of her novels, we’re tickled,” Donovan said. “When Troy Polamalu (of the Pittsburgh Steelers) says he loves the Laurel Highlands and when asked in an interview by the Chicago Tribune, ‘What is your favorite getaway?’ and he says, ‘The Laurel Highlands’, we’re really happy.”
Some of the more popular destinations in the Laurel Highlands, in addition to a wide array of activities for outdoor enthusiasts, include Fallingwater and the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, the Flight 93 National Memorial and Bushy Run Battlefield.
Chase McClain, Tournament Director, Mylan Classic, said the annual golf tournament, which has raised more than $32 million for Washington County since 2010, is more than just a sporting event.
“This event, which has been viewed by millions of people worldwide on the Golf Channel, has not only showcased Washington County as a business and tourist destination, but has helped assist local charities as well,” McClain said. “Over $2 million has been raised for charities since 2010 thanks to this overwhelmingly success event.”
Dawn Keezer, Director, Pittsburgh Film Office, said the film industry in Southwest Pennsylvania is big business with about 125 feature films being produced there since 1990.
Keezer noted the return on investment for revenue far outweighs the tax incentives given to encourage Hollywood production companies to come to Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania’s film program, which is administered by DCED, offers a credit of 25 percent of a production’s value. To be eligible for the tax credit, a film project must spend at least 60 percent of its total budget within the state of Pennsylvania.
“Since 1995, the state has made $153 for every $1 it has invested,” Keezer said. “Most of us would really be happy with that kind of return on our investment.”
Newhouse also highlighted the recently announced joint public/private partnership between Team PA, DCED and the Pennsylvania Association of Tourism and Travel designed to strengthen by marketing the tourism industry to a global audience.
“By engaging both the public and private sectors to create sustainable funding in support of the priorities in the developed marketing plan, the partnership was developed to achieve this goal,” Newhouse said. “Stay tuned for more to come.”