The tourist industry in the Pocono region continues to drive the regional economy because of the 24 million visitors who visit annually.
Pike and Wayne counties, which fall within the boundaries of the Pocono region and benefit from the hotel room tax that is distributed by the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau (PMVB), played host to the meeting of the Hotel Tax Commission on October 26.
“Tourism and resorts are the number one most powerful institution in the area and it is a billion-dollar industry that fuels a good portion of the Pocono economy,” said Carl Wilgus, president and CEO of the PMVB.
“The Pocono tourist industry has created about 22,000 jobs,” Wilgus said. “We calculate that for every 167 overnight stays one job is created.”
The meeting was attended by two other regional counties that benefit from the program: Carbon and Monroe counties. Three chambers of commerce from the area also attended: Southern Wayne Chamber, the Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce.
“Listing the entire industry as one instead of setting anyone apart is fitting since the PMVB was formed more than 75 years ago as the biggest all-for-one, one-for-all group in the region,” he said.
A significant factor occurring is the growth in importance of the social media. “With its growth in 2010 and 2011, social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Foursquare have become a vital tool in the realm of marketing,” Wilgus said. “With a combined 8.5 million users on Facebook from New York and Philadelphia, the PMVB capitalized on the advantage of utilizing social media platforms as a key strategy in reaching visitors in the region.”
At the three area visitor centers, there was a 28.7 percent increase in visitors in 2010 over 2009, with 345,473 visitors. More people came to golf events than for any other activity or purpose, Wilgus said. There were 10 major golf tournaments in 2010. Other categories of activities that drew visitors were sightseeing and cultural activities.
The PMVB is funded in part by room taxes. Monroe County earned $2,815,623 in gross room taxes this year; Pike drew $748,187 and Wayne totaled $363,256.
“We think this is astonishing when you think of the hard times that people are facing today,” Wilgus said.
Pike received about $115,000 from the hotel tax. A good chunk of that went to website development and social media development, said Ron Schmalzle of Pike’s tourism committee.
“We have a four-season interactive website with detailed maps and there are so many requests for our publication ‘Discover Pike’ that we can hardly keep up with them.”
By far the biggest draw in Wayne County is the Stourbridge Railway Tours in the summer,” said Vicki Botjer, Wayne County clerk. “Seventy percent of the visitors to the railway tours come from out of the area,” she said.