BLUE BELL — The Valley Forge Tourism and Convention Board (VFTCB) marked a milestone this week — its first in-person event in more than one year.
Socially distanced and wearing masks, more than 100 guests attended the outdoor event at Bluestone Country Club in Blue Bell — to promote tourism in Montgomery County, and highlight the VFTCB’s 2021 strategic initiatives.
The event celebrated U.S. Travel’s National Travel & Tourism Week, and was held just before the 5th Annual Montco Golf Classic. In addition to updates from the VFTCB, attendees were treated to a hot air balloon on-site, a Scottish bagpiper and the chance to celebrate Montgomery County’s Mascot Monty the Fox’s fourth birthday.
The tourism board outlined two upcoming new events during the event, including the first-ever Crave Montco Month — a 31-day restaurant promotion in July; and the new Arts Montco Week — a weeklong celebration of cultural attractions in September.
The events are designed to promote restaurants and the arts — two segments of the tourism and travel industry most heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The goal of both initiatives is to help reinvigorate the county tourism’s normally robust $1.65 billion positive economic impact, according to VFTCB President & CEO, Mike Bowman.
“Tourism is certainly powerful in Montgomery County,” Bowman said in a press release. “Our industry has been bent, sure, but not broken. Travel can change us, shape us, and have a positive impact on all of our lives. We need that now more than ever, and we know that our suburbs are going to come out of this strong. Together, we’re going to work hard to use that power to turn things around, and get people back to work.”
Montgomery County is home to more than 1,850 restaurants and Montco Makers — breweries, wineries, and distilleries — employing 22,500 employees. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, that figure accounts for 4% of employment in Montgomery County, and represents the third highest in the state with growth of more than 11 percent expected from 2018-2028.
The month-long restaurant promotion will be free for restaurants and Montco Makers to participate in — 31 days of meals, drinks, and deals, including a refresh to the free Montco Makers app and monthly contest, a website, videos, blog content, PR, and social plan.
Rachel Riley, senior director of communications for the VFTCB, said the agency knows there is a desire for people to be able to go out to eat.
“They’re craving date nights, celebrating missed birthdays, or even just Tuesdays. We’re hopeful that consumers will indulge and satisfy those cravings in Montco,” she said.
To bring awareness to the campaign, the VFTCB will be spotlighting a Hospitality Hero in the food and beverage industry weekly on its social platform.
Arts Montco Week, scheduled for Sept. 17 through Sept. 26, is being held to help encourage support of the county’s 200 arts and culture venues, which normally represent $100 million in positive economic impact. The festival will also be free for arts and culture venues to participate with no requirements on in-person or virtual programming, as well as a website, blog, video, PR, and social campaign.
The VFTCB also revealed some of the success of Valley Forge Sports Events, which it said have proven to be recession-proof.
This summer, the organization will host 30-plus events with more than 20,000 room nights, and $20 million in economic impact including:
• Two of the largest lacrosse showcases in the country
• The first-ever Esports festival at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks
• A brand-new national field hockey event at the Proving Grounds in Conshohocken
• The USA Climbing North American Cup Series featuring the top Olympic climbers in the country at Reach Climbing in Bridgeport
• One of the first-ever all-girls flag football tournaments with college scouts
Another sporting event coming to Montgomery County in 2021 is the Advocates Pro Gold Association Tour, which will be played at Bluestone Country Club Sept. 20 through Sept. 22. The APGA Tour is a diversity-focused group competition with a rising professional golf circuit comprised primarily of African American players.
“One of 13 tournaments planned for the 12-year-old series, it’s the first time the tour will be coming to the northeastern United States, and the first time they’ve worked with a regional tourism board on a tournament,” the release stated.
Geoffrey Surrette, executive director of the Philadelphia PGA, spoke Monday about the section’s Centennial milestone, and the power of Montco Golf’s 50 historic and top-ranked courses, which have seen significant participation increases through the pandemic with more expected this year.
The VFTCB also launched its 2021 Montco Golf Guide to celebrate what the agency calls “the perfect social-distancing sport.”
In addition, Kirsten Tallman, director of visitor services for the VFTCB, discussed the Valley Forge National Historical Park’s $14 million Visitor Center renovation project scheduled to be completed this summer, including the completely refreshed Montgomery County Welcome Center. The park welcomes more than two million visitors each year, with at least 250,000 visiting inside the Visitor Center, and contributes more than $30 million in positive economic impact.