Lancaster County Tourism bounced back in 2021, this year could be stronger 

Ioannis Pashakis//May 17, 2022

Lancaster County Tourism bounced back in 2021, this year could be stronger 

Ioannis Pashakis//May 17, 2022

Lancaster County brought in more visitors and made more money through its tourism industry in 2021 than it did in 2019, according to Discover Lancaster’s 2021 tourism economic impact report. 

Last year, Lancaster County saw a total of 9.13 million visitors, who spent $2.3 billion in the county—an increase of 2.2% and 3.2% respectively over 2019, according to the report. 

While the 2021 numbers show a return to form for the region’s tourism industry, it does not paint a full picture, seeing as though group travel has yet to completely return to the county, said Edward Harris, president and CEO of Discover Lancaster. 

“Leisure travel was predominant last year, and we’re working to further restore group travel in 2022, particularly meetings and conventions, as well as help spur a return to workforce levels that sustain our industry and allow it to make such a major contribution to the area’s overall economy,” said Harris. 

The majority of travel and entertainment spending within the county in 2019 happened in the last four months of the year, according to Harris. 

2021 marked the return of Lancaster County’s theater season, meaning the reopening of popular theaters such as the Fulton Theater, American Music Theater, Sight and Sound Theater and more, which see high numbers of goers particularly in the fall and winter months. 

Prior to the opening of local theaters, other Lancaster tourism mainstays like the Strausburg Railroad, Kitchen Kettle Village and Pennsylvania Renaissance Fair, also drove up 2021 numbers. 

Harris also contributed the region’s strong return in the back half of the year to a number of grants Discover Lancaster received that allowed it to invest in marketing campaigns in large neighboring cities like New York, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. 

“Without those grants we would probably not be ahead of the curve in the tourism industry comeback,” he said. “We promoted Lancaster County and a travel safe message starting back in the fall of 2020 throughout 2021. For us to be able to promote the area during that period really paid off.” 

One challenge that continues to face the industry is staffing in the hospitality sector. Harris said that leading into Memorial Day, many of the county’s attractions are showing improving staffing numbers, but the county will be keeping an eye on the data. 

2022 could prove to be record breaking for the county’s tourism industry if the first third of the year is to be believed, said Harris. 

“We are on pace to have a record year based on the increases we’ve seen during our off-peak months,” he said. “Typically, that’s our softest period and our gains have had substantial increases.”