Discover Lancaster helping accelerate county’s rebound in tourism

Ed Gruver//March 20, 2023

Discover Lancaster helping accelerate county’s rebound in tourism

Ed Gruver//March 20, 2023

Discover Lancaster enjoyed a record year for tourism in 2022. Now, Lancaster County’s official Destination Marketing Organization is eyeing an even more prosperous 2023. 

“Our mission is to inspire people to visit and discover Lancaster,” said Discover Lancaster President and CEO Edward Harris. “Our primary focus is attracting people to visit here. Our team has been focusing on ways more recently to also improve the visitor experience when they get here.” 

One way is the leveraging of technology to make it easier for visitors to experience everything Lancaster County has to offer. Harris said there are three ways Discover Lancaster is doing that. 

The first is the rolling out of a mobile-based ice cream trail soon that will reward visitors points through their smart phones when they visit over 35 ice cream places across Lancaster County, said. The layer of “gamification” allows points to be redeemed at Discover Lancaster’s visitor center for branded Lancaster merchandise. The mobile ice cream trail is a follow up to Discover Lancaster’s coffee trail that proved popular last fall. 

“Just making the visitor experience easier to get around Lancaster County and using their phone to discover different towns and ice cream places, which we have a lot of in Lancaster County,” Harris said. 

The second way involves introducing this summer a Discover Lancaster streaming channel which is going to be live on Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku. The channel will highlight restaurants, hotels, bed and breakfasts, and attractions across Lancaster County with up to an hour of video content. 

“From the mobile-bases trails to being able to stream a channel and watch it either on your TV or your laptop,” said Harris, “those are two ways we’re using technology to make it a better experience for our visitors.” 

A third way is the recent upgrading of Discover Lancaster’s website to make it ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant. Harris said the site now offers people with visual impairments to experience DiscoverLancaster.com and plan their travel to Lancaster. 

“Those three things on a technology front for our company are going to help us make the visitor experience this year better than it has been in the past,” Harris said. “That’s what’s new and fresh in terms of what our organization is rolling out in the first part of this year.” 

Lancaster County business anniversaries this year include Dutch Wonderland’s 60th anniversary in May and the National Association of Watch & Clock Collector’s 80th anniversary in July. 

Harris said Dutch Wonderland is celebrating its milestone with the offering a new ride when the amusement park opens in April. He added that the return of Moses at Sight & Sound Theatres has been popular since its debut on March 10, ticket sales being brisk and ahead of projected ticket sales for year already. 

“It’s very encouraging from a tourism standpoint,” Harris stated, “to have Dutch Wonderland introducing something new and Sight & Sound Theatre bringing back a show that was popular years ago and doing really well out of the gate.” 

Harris said Discover Lancaster’s increased investment in marketing in 2021-22 in New York, Long Island, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Hartford, and Wilmington combined with leisure demand created by the pandemic led to significant website traffic for DiscoverLancaster.com. The traffic increased by more than 20%, with many visitors opting to visit Lancaster. 

Hotels reported a revenue increase of 25% over 2021, and Harris said Lancaster’s reputation for having “open spaces” and providing “good value” played to the area’s advantage. 

What’s particularly encouraging is that our visitor growth is broad-based across demographics. In addition to being nationally recognized as a top-rated place to retire, we’ve emerged as a top destination for remote workers who initially chose to visit Lancaster,” Harris said. 

“Thousands of families also visit Lancaster County each year for the first time with kid’s teams competing in large scale tournaments at Spooky Nook and they ultimately discover things to do in our area. Our social media channels from Instagram to Facebook to LinkedIn and TikTok all continue to grow and attract new groups every day.” 

Also proving valuable is the positive publicity Lancaster County receives from the national media. Harris noted that three separate Number One national rankings put a spotlight on the high quality of life in Lancaster: 

  • US News & World Report listed Lancaster for the first time as the Number One place to retire, ahead of several popular Florida destinations. 
  • Real estate website Ownerly ranked Lancaster as America’s Number One city for remote workers. 
  • WalletHub called Lancaster the Best small city in America. 

In addition, national articles about Lancaster’s Rock Lititz, which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine last fall, are shifting what Harris said are “long-standing perceptions about what’s happening in Lancaster.”

Harris said the combination of national recognition with the marketing campaigns in major markets that are within a three-hour drive helps attract tourism and additional dollars into the local economy.

Harris added that Discover Lancaster’s visitor center has added new art in its gallery, new vendors in its retail shop, and will this summer reopen its 60-seat theatre and introduce a new film highlighting things to do in Lancaster year-round.

To gain additional traction in the tourism industry, Discover Lancaster is working with additional influencers on social media to help expand the organization’s reach and testing advertising on the sides of cars in new markets through campaigns with Carvertise.

This spring and summer Discover Lancaster will be highlighting its outdoor adventure opportunities, including the Enola Low grade trail biking and hiking along with the new “Chief Uncas” boat tour experience in the Susquehanna National Heritage Area.

Next fall will see Discover Lancaster bring back restaurant week in partnership with the Lancaster Farmland Trust and promote the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival in October.

Harris said that during the pandemic, tourists had time to think about where to plan their next trip, and for millions of people living in nearby metro areas, they decided to visit areas that offered open space, affordable prices, and outdoor recreational opportunities like hiking, biking, and hot air balloon rides.

Lancaster County is a destination that, Harris said, “checked all of those boxes.”