Pocono region reaps benefit of tourism boom

By LYLE T. GALLOWAY
Posted 8/4/21

WAYNE COUNTY, PA — Whether it’s canoeing down the rivers, hiking the picturesque trails, or window-shopping a bustling Main Street, the Pocono Mountain region of Pennsylvania has become a …

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Pocono region reaps benefit of tourism boom

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WAYNE COUNTY, PA — Whether it’s canoeing down the rivers, hiking the picturesque trails, or window-shopping a bustling Main Street, the Pocono Mountain region of Pennsylvania has become a home away from home for many people over the years.

“People use this as a haven,” said Chris Barrett, president and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau (PMVB).

Barrett, along with other members of the visitor's bureau, presented their annual tourism report to the Wayne County Commissioners during their weekly meeting.

The bureau reported that 2021 has all the potential to become one of their best years on record for tourism.

The total amount of revenue for the group’s first-quarter in 2021 was $3.1 million, with $1.1 million in net income.

Revenue from hotel and short-term rental taxes is also climbing steadily. Hotel tax revenue is currently sitting at $2.9 million, as compared to $1.9 million in 2019 and $1.8 million in 2020. With short-term rentals, such as Airbnbs and resorts, each rented room in the Pocono region yielded a daily average of $214, as compared to $129 in Philadelphia and $106 in Pittsburgh.

“The brick-and-mortar resorts had incredible demand, so as soon as we went from the yellow to the green phase it was like turning a switch on and off. People wanted to get out, they saw the Poconos as being a viable option, so that all translated into a very, very strong year for us,” said Barrett.

The increase in revenue has allowed for a positive fund balance for the bureau. Its projected fund balance for the end of the year is currently $5.1 million.

With this new positive balance, the PMVB has embarked on an advertising and marketing campaign. It is looking into expanding advertisements on social media and broadcast television. It has been buying runtime slots within the New York, Philadelphia, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Altoona areas. It is also working out the details with advertising with Verizon Fios, Hulu and ABC.

Aside from its influence on the area through tourism, the PMVB is also looking to make multiple impacts in a different way.

It is looking into reinstating its “Pick up the Poconos” anti-littering campaign and its adopt a highway program. It is also actively updating its “Pocono Promise” initiative, a reciprocal pledge between the bureau and visitors to uphold public health and safety guidelines.

“One thing that I think we should all appreciate is that we have a very marketable commodity in our area where we live. I just traveled all the way to Nashville and back and there is no place any more beautiful than our own backyard,” said Commissioner Brian Smith.

Act 33

Cheryl Davies, Wayne County’s director of tax services, spoke to the commissioners on behalf of Act 33.

Act 33 began as House Bill 264, which was signed by Governor Tom Wolf on June 30. Act 33 requires all bidders engaging in tax sales of property to pre-register at least 10 days before the initial sale.

In addition to the pre-registration, a certification form must be filled out. The consent form ensures that the applicant has not been delinquent in paying real estate taxes and has no housing code violations on their record.

“The reason for this act was to try and eliminate, or make it less appliable for the property owner, or bidders, to be lax in maintaining their properties in a safe and sanitary manner,” said Davies.

If a potential bidder is found to have a housing code violation, the Department of Tax Services will notify the municipalities of everyone who’s bidding at the department’s tax sales. They will also be barred from bidding on any property within that district.

In order to bid on property in a tax sale, Certification and Bidder Registration Forms must be filled out and a $25 non-refundable pre-registration fee must be paid. Bidders are also expected to provide their driver’s license or other form of identification.

Following Davies’ presentation, the commissioners made a motion to adopt the pre-registration fee and all provisions of Act 33 of 2021.

The new rules take effect for the Upset Tax Sale, scheduled for September 17.

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