Tourism officials and the mayor’s office touted growth in city hotel revenue on Tuesday, as Visit Philadelphia outlined new plans to bring more visitors to the city through a focus on women travelers, Canadians, and people who like to eat.
Center City hotel revenues climbed to $707 million last year, a 4.3% increase from 2018 revenue figures of $678 million.
Higher room rates propelled that revenue growth, hospitality groups said. The city’s “average daily rate” went up about $10, from $191.40 in 2018 to $202.41 in 2019, thanks to several factors, including “a strong convention year” and more options for high-end rooms.
Four hotels that opened in Philly last year added 491 rooms to the market.
Overall, city hotels sold 3.49 million room nights in 2019, from a supply of 4.58 million room nights. The rate of demand “surpassed the overall five-year average by 4.5%,” according to the figures released by the city and Visit Philadelphia, along with the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB) and the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association.
“This constant stream of visitor activity generates tax dollars and supports family-sustaining jobs for our residents,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement Tuesday. "That’s hugely beneficial to our city and region.”
This year, Philadelphia will welcome 20 large conventions or events, the most in a decade, the PHLCVB announced last week. These large gatherings, known as “citywides,” will generate 335,000 hotel room nights and bring about 400,000 people to Philadelphia.
Eight of those groups are either coming to the city for the first time ever or coming back for the first time in more than 10 years. They include gatherings of the Pediatric Academic Societies, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and the American Statistical Association.
Meanwhile, Visit Philadelphia is rolling out initiatives aimed at leisure travelers, the vast majority of Philly’s visitors. In 2018, the tourism group said, 88% of 45 million visitors “came to the region to have fun.”
To that end, Visit Philadelphia outlined a new partnership with the James Beard Foundation “to make it easy for travelers to support delicious, diverse and sustainable food."
For instance, Philly chefs will take over the James Beard House in New York for four culinary events in 2020. And in August, the partnership will produce a week of “restaurant collective” events in Philadelphia.
Another strategy will focus on marketing the city of (ahem) “sisterly love” as a getaway destination for women traveling with family or friends. Visit Philadelphia said it “will promote a year of events and programming around art, food, fitness, wine, music and history, including the centennial of women’s right to vote.”
Tourism officials are also looking north — very north. Canada is Philly’s biggest market for visitors from abroad, and sent nearly 500,000 of the region’s 1.22 million international visitors last year.
Visit Philadelphia said it will expand its Canada-intensive PR efforts over the coming decade to “better capture Philadelphia’s share of Canadian visitors against direct competitors such as New York, Chicago, Boston, Florida, Houston and the Caribbean.”
Oh, and yes: a Philly-themed travel podcast is coming, though it will have a “video component” to make it stand out from other podcasts. It makes its debut Feb. 29, Visit Philadelphia said.