Visit Bucks County, a Bensalem-based tourism agency that also focuses on promoting the Quakertown and Upper Bucks area, named Paul Bencivengo as the new president and COO.
Bencivengo takes over for Jerry Lepping, who retired as of July 1.
Previously, Bencivengo served as the organization’s vice president and first joined Visit Bucks County as the marketing director in 2009.
Over the years, Visit Bucks County has adapted to changes in the tourism industry, he said.
“We’ve been able to grow and evolve with industry,” Bencivengo said. “We were able to eliminate membership a few years ago.”
Visit Bucks County, a nonprofit, currently has 15 employees and a $5 million total operating budget. He estimated that the organization helps create a $1 billion economic impact over the course of a year in the county.
The passage of Pennsylvania’s Act 18 in 2016 contributed to this growth for the tourism agency.
Act 18 allowed certain county classes to raise their hotel occupancy tax to a maximum of 5 percent, Bencivengo said.
Many surrounding Pennsylvania counties increased the rates, ultimately providing more marketing dollars, he said.
In April 2017, Bucks County increased the occupancy tax (from 3 percent to 5 percent) levied on overnight visitors. In July 2017, Visit Bucks County eliminated annual membership dues.
The Tourism Office went from approximately 400 hospitality partners to more than 1,400. The borough promotes these partners through print and digital efforts, including listings on VisitBucksCounty.com. Many of the organizations added to the marketing and promotional efforts were retail and food/beverage related, he said.
By eliminating membership, the agency now can more fully represent and promote more areas of Bucks County.
Bencivengo said he has also increased the agency’s marketing department over the years from two people to six.
In addition, by hiring two firms to conduct a Tourism and Hospitality Product Development Assessment Initiative, Visit Bucks County can determine where it needs to spend its marketing dollars, according to Bencivengo. On July 8, the teams will meet to share the results of the first part of the study.
Bencivengo said a main component of the study is to look for ways to bring more resources for people to visit the county.
Right now, Visit Bucks County has about $2 million in its advertising budget, which it spends in digital and static ads in New York, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and the Philadelphia area, he said.
Bencivengo said he is looking forward to working more closely with Quakertown Alive!, a local economic development organization and the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce to help bring more people into the region.
He also wants to find ways to conduct more regional marketing by working with other counties.
“The things I want to focus on are product development and [to] collaborate more with Lehigh County, Montgomery County,” Bencivengo said.
With more hotels planned for construction in the county, hotel occupancy could continue rising.
In Bucks County, hotel occupancy increased 4.4 percent in May 2019, as compared to May 2018, he said.
In addition, Quakertown hotel occupancy was up 13 percent year over year, comparing May 2018 to May 2019, he said.
“We are looking to promote the smaller towns, winter getaways…we will do more marketing this year for that,” Bencivengo said. “We want to spur development, help educate our hospitality partners on the best ways to market.”
The organization could potentially host a hospitality career fair to help draw interest in people seeking these types of careers, he added.