Tourism operations in Warren County may not be entirely back to pre-pandemic levels in Warren County.
But Warren County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Dave Sherman delivered an encouraging message: “We see land on the horizon.” The WCVB board met last week and discussed several areas in which that return to normalcy appears even closer.
One aspect? Requests for visitor information.
“In April alone,” Sherman said, “individuals from 31 different states requested information from us about Warren County, Pa. One month. 31 states. Utah. North Dakota. Iowa.”
They’re also observing an uptick to the physical visitor center in Starbrick which was closed to the public for much of 2020.
“We haven’t returned to normal visitor travel just yet but we are definitely seeing improvement,” he said.
Another sign of improvement is in the financials. The WCVB is largely funded by the hotel occupancy tax – or bed tax, a fee affixed to each reservation of a room in the county’s hotels and Airbnbs.
So the more people stay here, the more of that tax is collected.
“A sure sign of recovery, we hope, is our revenues are up nine percent over 2019 revenues for the first one-third of the calendar year,” Sherman said “Visitors are traveling to WC and they are spending more than the day here.”
One area the WCVB is working to enhance operations is in the digital marketing space.
While proposals for professional marketing services proved too costly, Sherman’s optimistic they’ll see growth with a more local touch — hiring a high school intern, a Warren County Career Center student.
“Bella Lyon has roughly 10 weeks with us now…. We are confident she will eventually grow to a point where she can enhance our digital marketing footprint,” Sherman said.
“Bella’s niche seems to be revealing itself in our social media area and that’s fantastic because that specific area is why we hired her. We cannot realistically spend thousands of dollars per month right now – or ever – continuing to build our brand but we can grow it organically.
Right now, given the grant program that pays for our intern, we can grow it internally with staff that knows the county inside and out, knows who is most likely to visit and from what areas, etc.,” he added. “In other words, we will continue to do what we can to promote Warren County to the world but by working with our intern improving by the week, we will continue a steady, specific, targeted approach once again.”