Discover Lancaster helping accelerate county’s rebound in tourism

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.”

Goddard School moves to expanded location in Enola

The Goddard School of Enola will cut the ribbon Nov. 1 on its new, 18,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art location at 4800 Woodland Drive, Hampden Township.

A release said the school is the largest child care center in central Pennsylvania and the largest Goddard School on the East Coast. Its previous, much smaller location was at 4955 Woodland Drive.

Part of an early childhood education franchise, the Goddard School has been part of the Enola community since 2000. It serves local families and is enrolling children from 6 weeks to 6 years at its new home, including those interested in its state-certified, private kindergarten program.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will feature tours of the school, which includes a multi-purpose room with a basketball court; a drama stage; three large outdoor playgrounds, a student-maintained fruit and vegetable garden to support agricultural education; and a 24-hour employee fitness center.

The Goddard School serves more than 75,000 students in nearly 600 Goddard Schools in 37 states and Washington, D.C.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

PAM Health to construct first rehab hospital in Pa.

Enola-based PAM Health announced plans Thursday to build a freestanding 42-bed physical medicine and rehabilitation hospital in Mechanicsburg, its first inpatient rehabilitation hospital in the state.

Overall, the Mechanicsburg facility will be the fourth PAM Health hospital in Pennsylvania, including long-term acute care specialty hospitals in the Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh and Beaver areas.

Construction of the hospital is expected to begin in early 2023, with opening projected for 2024.

“Central Pennsylvania is an ideal location for a PAM Health hospital,” Anthony Misitano, chairman, founder and CEO of PAM Health, said in a release. “We look forward to adding a hospital where our employees and their families live and work so we can provide high-quality inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation option to our friends and neighbors in the region.”

The new hospital will assist patients with traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, strokes and other neurological disorders, amputations, and other orthopedic and post-surgical conditions.

Misitano said the location, near other hospitals and “in the heart of the growing health care center of the Capitol region,” will enable PAM Health to work seamlessly with those hospitals in transitioning patients who require inpatient rehabilitation.

PAM Health provides specialty health care services through more than 70 long-term acute care hospitals and physical medicine and rehabilitation hospitals, as well as wound clinics and outpatient physical therapy locations, in 17 states.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Senate bill would shield unimpaired medical marijuana users from DUI charges

A bill introduced in the state Senate would remove zero tolerance DUI penalties for Pennsylvania medical cannabis license holders and require proof the driver was impaired while driving.

The bill’s main sponsor, Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Beaver, Washington and Greene counties, said the legislation would eliminate the risk medical cannabis users would be charged with a crime if THC is found in their blood.

THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana that provides a high to users. CBD, or cannabidiol is a legal, non-psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis. THC is still detectable in a blood test even among patients using low THC and high CBD products, which can result in a DUI charge under current law.

Bartolotta said in a statement that the legal use of the medicine should not give rise to a criminal conviction.

“Patients fought tooth and nail for years to see the use of medical cannabis legalized to treat a variety of terrible health conditions,” she said. “They should have the peace of mind to know that they will not be punished later for using their prescriptions responsibly.”

Most conditions treated with marijuana are long standing chronic medical conditions that medical cannabis does not cure but instead provides relief for. In those cases, Hauser said that the drug cannot be used once a month on a bad day if the patient wants to see optimal benefits.

Other forms of medical cannabis used to reduce seizures and relieve pain from conditions such as multiple sclerosis, are low in THC and high in CBD.

When pharmacists at Organic Remedies, a medical marijuana dispensary in Enola, Cumberland County, speak to new patients, they advise them not to drive while using the medication.

They do that because even someone licensed to use medical marijuana can test positive for marijuana use long after they’ve metabolized the drug, according to Eric Hauser, president of Organic Remedies.

“Let’s say there was an accident while driving where someone ran into the patient,” he said. “The patient was not impaired and isn’t doing anything wrong, but someone else accidentally ran into them. The patient gets a drug test and they test positive for THC and get a DUI. There is no grey area there.”

Bartolotta’s proposed rule change is something Organic Remedies has advocated for since medical marijuana was legalized in 2018. Hauser said he is hopeful that the legislation will make its way through the Senate.

“I hope lawmakers will look through the lens of a patient and think about what that means for the 250,000 plus people who are medical marijuana patients,” he said.