I am often asked, “What can local citizens do to help promote tourism in Lehigh Valley?” The time generally does not permit me to get into a detailed answer, but here are some easy and fun ways to become a local ambassador.
Get out and experience what we have to offer!
In the travel industry, you often hear the call to action to “live like a local.” Well, I challenge you to instead look at Lehigh Valley with the excitement of a new visitor. It is amazing how many people who live in one part of Lehigh Valley know so little about the other parts of the valley. Judging by the number of people with whom I have spoken, few even think to travel from Easton to Trexlertown or vice versa. In fact, I know people from Allentown who have never even been to Easton. Harder to believe still, is that some local residents haven’t even been to attractions within their own town!
Lehigh Valley is home to hundreds of high-quality attractions and events within our two-county area. Why not take advantage of them?
One explanation, and one that I have heard from many in our business, is that these attractions simply become a part of the background. We see and are exposed to them on a daily basis and as a result become so familiar with them that they fade into the environment so much so that we hardly even notice.
Walking around Historic Moravian Bethlehem never ceases to create a sense of awe, but for many who are there daily, they may not have that same awestruck wonder. It becomes part of the normal environment and they don’t think about getting out and participating in the local experiences. Think about all the stories of New Yorkers who have never been to the top of the Empire State Building, ice skating at Rockefeller Center or any of the other attractions right there in their own hometown.
Moonlight as a tour guide when hosting guests.
Do you really want your out-of-town friends and relatives sitting around in your house all day and night? Show them around.
You know what their interests are. For ideas check out the Discover Lehigh Valley website at Discoverlehighvalley.com. Not only does this provide an opportunity to see and experience things yourself, but you’ll also have the ability to see Lehigh Valley’s attractions through the eyes of someone who is new to the area. Their reactions may surprise you and get you thinking about why you hadn’t visited these places sooner.
Not long ago, there was a time when the popular refrain was, “There’s nothing to do around here!” Today the opposite is true. There are so many choices, it may be challenging to choose among them. If that gets to be a problem, just visit more places.
Become a brand ambassador for Lehigh Valley. Once you’ve become more acquainted with all there is to do here, tell your friends and relatives how great you think it is to live here in Lehigh Valley. It really is wonderful. We have great arts and cultural activities and facilities; excellent sports venues, both college and professional; hundreds of miles of trails; high-quality festivals and events galore; excellent locally owned and operated restaurants, wineries, breweries, distilleries and more.
One of the easiest ways to do this is through sharing on social media. Did you know that the average social media user spends 116 minutes per day on social media platforms?
People are tuned in and listening to what you share, post and say. So, post to Instagram and Facebook and share your positive experiences. Your modern day word-of-mouth marketing resonates and influences behavior.
Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey found that 92 percent of consumers trust earned media, such as word-of-mouth or recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. So, don’t be bashful — post and share your recommendations. Help spread the word. And, if you don’t want them to stay with you time and again, we have more than 6,000 hotel rooms where they can stay.
The impact of this is huge. The people who experience Lehigh Valley firsthand are likely to share their experiences with friends and out-of-town guests and perhaps draw more visitors to the area. And the exposure to Lehigh Valley provides an opportunity for those who may want to relocate a business here or relocate here themselves to work in our growing economy.
Another side effect is that you will begin to understand more of what we have to offer and then you can relay that to the organizations and professional associations to which you belong. Do they have a convention or a regional gathering? Might we be able to host them? It is, most often, the local members that make the difference in convincing a national, state or regional organization to bring their meeting to Lehigh Valley. Indeed, you can make a significant difference.
As I retire from a position that I have had the privilege of holding twice in my career and one that I love doing, I encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the community in which you live, as well as those around it. Lehigh Valley is an exceptional place to live, work and play. Have some fun here, right in your own backyard. Hopefully, I’ll see you around.
Michael Stershic is president of Discover Lehigh Valley, which promotes tourism in Lehigh and Northampton Counties. He can be reached at [email protected] or 610-882-9200. This is the fifth column in a five-part series.