New visitors bureau exec takes aim at Lancaster County experience
Kathleen Frankford's marketing strategy for Lancaster County tourism is one of broad strokes, but with a targeted focus on “what will bring the most economic impact to the county.”
The county's new marketer-in-chief said the slate has been wiped clean and that she will be looking at an overall media mix — including digital and database marketing — to package everything the county has to offer, while crafting specific promotional messages for different groups.
"Is it different? I certainly hope so," said Frankford, who last worked at the American Music Theatre as vice president of sales and marketing.
Lancaster County already has strong brand identity, she said. The key is creating an emotional attachment and giving visitors a compelling reason to drive here.
"We want to talk about the Lancaster County experience. We're currently working on that," she said.
The bureau is tasked with marketing a diverse mix of retail and restaurants, live entertainment venues and, of course, hotels and the downtown convention center.
The latter's debt reserves fell below minimums required by bond contracts last year, so the bureau's 20 percent of the county's hotel tax was redirected to the convention center. Its share returned in November.
When asked about plans if that 20 percent is clawed back again for the convention center, Frankford said bureau officials are "constantly looking at new and creative ways" to generate revenue for the bureau.
"Maintaining our income stream is critical," she said.
Frankford said she was "not ready to discuss just yet" those new and creative ways.
"It is a priority for the bureau," she said.
The bureau also receives a 1.1 percent excise tax the county imposes on every room-night sold. The rest of its revenue comes from member dues and advertising and sponsorship revenue, spokesman Joel Cliff said.
The excise tax is on top of the county's 3.9 percent hotel room tax. The Lancaster County Convention Center Authority normally receives 80 percent of the 3.9 percent tax.
Frankford said the bureau's position has not changed regarding an increase of the hotel tax.
"It has been the bureau's position for years not to increase the tax solely for the benefit of the convention center," she said.
She said the focus is on marketing the entire county, and the convention center is an important part of the county.
Frankford said her top priority as president is to bring people to Lancaster County.
"I plan on maintaining that focus," she said.
Promoting a wide-ranging membership base that includes about 700 members is a nice problem to have, Frankford said.
She said the bureau will try to package everything there is to do to create that experience for visitors. It also will refine its messages to appeal more to families interested in attractions such as Dutch Wonderland, Sight & Sound Theatres and Amish country.
"Maybe older couples are more interested in shopping or a dinner theater," she said. "You can create specific messages to different audiences. We are much more than the Amish."
Some people come to Lancaster County for a relaxing experience; others to do everything, Frankford said.
Travel and tourism are the county's second-largest industry behind agriculture.
The bureau's biggest challenge this year will be developing an impactful marketing campaign, she said.
"It's really just educating the local communities on what tourism brings to the area," Frankford said. "If we can increase (visitation), we can target new markets. The more people understand the value, the more they will appreciate the New York license plates."
About Kathleen Frankford
Frankford started Jan. 28 as president of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau, replacing Chris Barrett.
Previously, she was vice president of sales and marketing at American Music Theatre.
Frankford, 44, also has worked as director of marketing for Hershey Entertainment and Resorts Co., tourism director for the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau, and vice president of marketing and sales for Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts.
She and her husband, Todd, have three children and live in Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County.
Lancaster County tourism
10 million: Approximate number of annual county visitors
$1.8 billion: Estimated economic impact of tourism in Lancaster County
700+: Number of member partners for the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau
$3.8 million: The CVB's budget this year
Source: Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau